The House of the
Wolf, A Romance
by Stanley Weyman
The following is a modern English version of a curious French
memoir, or fragment of autobiography, apparently written about
the year 1620 by Anne, Vicomte de Caylus, and brought to this
country--if, in fact, the original ever existed in England--by
one of his descendants after the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes. This Anne, we learn from other sources, was a principal
figure at the Court of Henry IV., and, therefore, in August,
1572, when the adventures here related took place, he and his two
younger brothers, Marie and Croisette, who shared with him the
honour and the danger, must have been little more than boys.
From the tone of his narrative, it appears that, in reviving old
recollections, the veteran renewed his youth also, and though his
story throws no fresh light upon the history of the time, it
seems to possess some human interest.
THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF.
CHAPTER I. WARE WOLF!
I had afterwards such good reason to look back upon and remember
the events of that afternoon, that Catherine's voice seems to
ring in my brain even now. I can shut my eyes and see again,
after all these years, what I saw then--just the blue summer sky,
and one grey angle of the keep, from which a fleecy cloud was
trailing like the smoke from a chimney. I could see no more
because I was lying on my back, my head resting on my hands.
Marie and Croisette, my brothers, were lying by me in exactly the
same posture, and a few yards away on the terrace, Catherine was
sitting on a stool Gil had brought out for her. It was the
second Thursday in August, and hot. Even the jackdaws were
silent. I had almost fallen asleep, watching my cloud grow
longer and longer, and thinner and thinner, when Croisette, who
cared for heat no more than a lizard, spoke up sharply,
"Mademoiselle," he said, "why are you watching the Cahors road?"
I had not noticed that she was doing so. But something in the
keenness of Croisette's tone, taken perhaps with the fact that
Catherine did not at once answer him, aroused me; and I turned to
her. And lo! she was blushing in the most heavenly way, and her
eyes were full of tears, and she looked at us adorably. And we
all three sat up on our elbows, like three puppy dogs, and looked
at her. And there was a long silence. And then she said quite
simply to us, "Boys, I am going to be married to M. de Pavannes."
I fell flat on my back and spread out my arms. "Oh,
Mademoiselle!" I cried reproachfully.
"Oh, Mademoiselle!" cried Marie. And he fell flat on his back,
and spread out his arms and moaned. He was a good brother, was
Marie, and obedient.
And Croisette cried, "Oh, mademoiselle!" too. But he was always
ridiculous in his ways. He fell flat on his back,and flopped his
arms and squealed like a pig.
Yet he was sharp. It was he who first remembered our duty, and
went to Catherine, cap in hand, where she sat half angry and half
confused, and said with a fine redness in his cheeks,
"Mademoiselle de Caylus, our cousin, we give you joy, and wish
you long life; and are your servants, and the good friends and
aiders of M. de Pavannes in all quarrels, as--"
But I could not stand that. "Not so fast, St. Croix de Caylus" I
said, pushing him aside--he was ever getting before me in those
days--and taking his place. Then with my best bow I began,
"Mademoiselle, we give you joy and long life, and are your
servants and the good friends and aiders of M. de Pavannes in all
"As becomes the cadets of your house," suggested Croisette,
"As becomes the cadets of your house," I repeated. And then
Catherine stood up and made me a low bow and we all kissed her
hand in turn, beginning with me and ending with Croisette, as was
becoming. Afterwards Catherine threw her handkerchief over her
face--she was crying--and we three sat down, Turkish fashion,
just where we were, and said "Oh, Kit!" very softly.
But presently Croisette had something to add. "What will the
Wolf say?" he whispered to me.
"Ah! To be sure!" I exclaimed aloud. I had been thinking of
myself before; but this opened quite another window. "What will
the Vidame say, Kit?"
She dropped her kerchief from her face, and turned so pale that I
was sorry I had spoken--apart from the kick Croisette gave me.
"Is M. de Bezers at his house?" she asked anxiously.
"Yes" Croisette answered. "He came in last night from St.
Antonin, with very small attendance."
"The news seemed to set her fears at rest instead of augmenting
them as I should have expected. I suppose they were rather for
Louis de Pavannes, than for herself. Not unnaturally, too, for
even the Wolf could scarcely have found it in his heart to hurt
our cousin. Her slight willowy figure, her pale oval face and
gentle brown eyes, her pleasant voice, her kindness, seemed to us
boys and in those days, to sum up all that was womanly. We could
not remember, not even Croisette the youngest of us--who was
seventeen, a year junior to Marie and myself--we were twins--the
time when we had not been in love with her.
But let me explain how we four, whose united ages scarce exceeded
seventy years, came to be lounging on the terrace in the holiday
stillness of that afternoon. It was the summer of 1572. The
great peace, it will be remembered, between the Catholics and the
Huguenots had not long been declared; the peace which in a day or
two was to be solemnized, and, as most Frenchmen hoped, to be
cemented by the marriage of Henry of Navarre with Margaret of
Valois, the King's sister. The Vicomte de Caylus, Catherine's
father and our guardian, was one of the governors appointed to
see the peace enforced; the respect in which he was held by both
parties--he was a Catholic, but no bigot, God rest his soul!--
recommending him for this employment. He had therefore gone a
week or two before to Bayonne, his province. Most of our
neighbours in Quercy were likewise from home, having gone to
Paris to be witnesses on one side or the other of the royal
wedding. And consequently we young people, not greatly checked
by the presence of good-natured, sleepy Madame Claude,
Catherine's duenna, were disposed to make the most of our
liberty; and to celebrate the peace in our own fashion.
We were country-folk. Not one of us had been to Pau, much less
to Paris. The Vicomte held stricter views than were common then,
upon young people's education; and though we had learned to ride
and shoot, to use our swords and toss a hawk, and to read and
write, we knew little more than Catherine herself of the world;
little more of the pleasures and sins of court life, and not one-
tenth as much as she did of its graces. Still she had taught us
to dance and make a bow. Her presence had softened our manners;
and of late we had gained something from the frank companionship
of Louis de Pavannes, a Huguenot whom the Vicomte had taken
prisoner at Moncontour and held to ransom. We were not, I
think, mere clownish yokels.
But we were shy. We disliked and shunned strangers. And when
old Gil appeared suddenly, while we were still chewing the
melancholy cud of Kit's announcement, and cried sepulchrally, "M.
le Vidame de Bezers to pay his respects to Mademoiselle!"--Well,
there was something like a panic, I confess!
We scrambled to our feet, muttering, "The Wolf!" The entrance at
Caylus is by a ramp rising from the gateway to the level of the
terrace. This sunken way is fenced by low walls so that one may
not--when walking on the terrace--fall into it. Gil had spoken
before his head had well risen to view, and this gave us a
moment, just a moment. Croisette made a rush for the doorway
into the house; but failed to gain it, and drew himself up behind
a buttress of the tower, his finger on his lip. I am slow
sometimes, and Marie waited for me, so that we had barely got to
our legs--looking, I dare say, awkward and ungainly enough--
before the Vidame's shadow fell darkly on the ground at
"Mademoiselle!" he said, advancing to her through the sunshine,
and bending over her slender hand with a magnificent grace that
was born of his size and manner combined, "I rode in late last
night from Toulouse; and I go to-morrow to Paris. I have but
rested and washed off the stains of travel that I may lay my--
He seemed to see us for the first time and negligently broke off
in his compliment; raising himself and saluting us. "Ah," he
continued indolently, "two of the maidens of Caylus, I see. With
an odd pair of hands apiece, unless I am mistaken, Why do you not
set them spinning, Mademoiselle?" and he regarded us with that
smile which--with other things as evil--had made him famous.
Croisette pulled horrible faces behind his back. We looked hotly
at him; but could find nothing to say.
"You grow red!" he went on, pleasantly--the wretch!--playing
with us as a cat does with mice. "It offends your dignity,
perhaps, that I bid Mademoiselle set you spinning? I now would
spin at Mademoiselle's bidding, and think it happiness!"
"We are not girls!" I blurted out, with the flush and tremor of
a boy's passion. "You had not called my godfather, Anne de
Montmorenci a girl, M. le Vidame!" For though we counted it a
joke among ourselves that we all bore girls' names, we were young
enough to be sensitive about it.
He shrugged his shoulders. And how he dwarfed us all as he stood
there dominating our terrace! "M. de Montmorenci was a man," he
said scornfully. "M. Anne de Caylus is--"
And the villain deliberately turned his great back upon us,
taking his seat on the low wall near Catherine's chair. It was
clear even to our vanity that he did not think us worth another
word--that we had passed absolutely from his mind. Madame Claude
came waddling out at the same moment, Gil carrying a chair behind
her. And we--well we slunk away and sat on the other side of the
terrace, whence we could still glower at the offender.
Yet who were we to glower at him? To this day I shake at the
thought of him. It was not so much his height and bulk, though
he was so big that the clipped pointed fashion of his beard a
fashion then new at court--seemed on him incongruous and
effeminate; nor so much the sinister glance of his grey eyes--he
had a slight cast in them; nor the grim suavity of his manner,
and the harsh threatening voice that permitted of no disguise.
It was the sum of these things, the great brutal presence of the
man--that was overpowering--that made the great falter and the
poor crouch. And then his reputation! Though we knew little of
the world's wickedness, all we did know had come to us linked
with his name. We had heard of him as a duellist, as a bully, an
employer of bravos. At Jarnac he had been the last to turn from
the shambles. Men called him cruel and vengeful even for those
days--gone by now, thank God!--and whispered his name when they
spoke of assassinations; saying commonly of him that he would not
blench before a Guise, nor blush before the Virgin.
Such was our visitor and neighbour, Raoul de Mar, Vidame de
Bezers. As he sat on the terrace, now eyeing us askance, and now
paying Catherine a compliment, I likened him to a great cat
before which a butterfly has all unwittingly flirted her
prettiness. Poor Catherine! No doubt she had her own reasons
for uneasiness; more reasons I fancy than I then guessed. For
she seemed to have lost her voice. She stammered and made but
poor replies; and Madame Claude being deaf and stupid, and we
boys too timid after the rebuff we had experienced to fill the
gap, the conversation languished. The Vidame was not for his
part the man to put himself out on a hot day.
It was after one of these pauses--not the first but the longest--
that I started on finding his eyes fixed on mine. More, I
shivered. It is hard to describe, but there was a look in the
Vidame's eyes at that moment which I had never seen before. A
look of pain almost: of dumb savage alarm at any rate. From me
they passed slowly to Marie and mutely interrogated him. Then
the Vidame's glance travelled back to Catherine, and settled on
Only a moment before she had been but too conscious of his
presence. Now, as it chanced by bad luck, or in the course of
Providence, something had drawn her attention elsewhere. She was
unconscious of his regard. Her own eyes were fixed in a far-away
gaze. Her colour was high, her lips were parted, her bosom
The shadow deepened on the Vidame's face. Slowly he took his
eyes from hers, and looked northwards also.
Caylus Castle stands on a rock in the middle of the narrow valley
of that name. The town clusters about the ledges of the rock so
closely that when I was a boy I could fling a stone clear of the
houses. The hills are scarcely five hundred yards distant on
either side, rising in tamer colours from the green fields about
the brook. It is possible from the terrace to see the whole
valley, and the road which passes through it lengthwise.
Catherine's eyes were on the northern extremity of the defile,
where the highway from Cahors descends from the uplands. She had
been sitting with her face turned that way all the afternoon.
I looked that way too. A solitary horseman was descending the
steep track from the hills.
"Mademoiselle!" cried the Vidame suddenly. We all looked up.
His tone was such that the colour fled from Kit's face. There
was something in his voice she had never heard in any voice
before--something that to a woman was like a blow.
"Mademoiselle," he snarled, "is expecting news from Cahors, from
her lover. I have the honour to congratulate M. de Pavannes on
Ah! he had guessed it! As the words fell on the sleepy silence,
an insult in themselves, I sprang to my feet, amazed and angry,
yet astounded by his quickness of sight and wit. He must have
recognized the Pavannes badge at that distance. "M. le Vidame,"
I said indignantly--Catherine was white and voiceless--"M. le
Vidame--" but there I stopped and faltered stammering. For
behind him I could see Croisette; and Croisette gave me no sign
of encouragement or support.
So we stood face to face for a moment; the boy and the man of the
world, the stripling and the ROUE. Then the Vidame bowed to me
in quite a new fashion. "M. Anne de Caylus desires to answer for
M. de Pavannes?" he asked smoothly; with a mocking smoothness.
I understood what he meant. But something prompted me--Croisette
said afterwards that it was a happy thought, though now I know
the crisis to have been less serious than he fancied to answer,
"Nay, not for M. de Pavannes. Rather for my cousin." And I
bowed. "I have the honour on her behalf to acknowledge your
congratulations, M. le Vidame. It pleases her that our nearest
neighbour should also be the first outside the family to wish her
well. You have divined truly in supposing that she will shortly
be united to M. de Pavannes."
I suppose--for I saw the giant's colour change and his lip quiver
as I spoke--that his previous words had been only a guess. For a
moment the devil seemed to be glaring through his eyes; and he
looked at Marie and me as a wild animal at its keepers. Yet he
maintained his cynical politeness in part. "Mademoiselle desires
my congratulations?" he said, slowly, labouring with each word
it seemed. "She shall have them on the happy day. She shall
certainly have them then. But these are troublous times. And
Mademoiselle's betrothed is I think a Huguenot, and has gone to
Paris. Paris--well, the air of Paris is not good for Huguenots,
I am told."
I saw Catherine shiver; indeed she was on the point of fainting,
I broke in rudely, my passion getting the better of my fears.
"M. de Pavannes can take care of himself, believe me," I said
"Perhaps so," Bezers answered, his voice like the grating of
steel on steel. "But at any rate this will be a memorable day
for Mademoiselle. The day on which she receives her first
congratulations--she will remember it as long as she lives! Oh,
yes, I will answer for that, M. Anne," he said looking brightly
at one and another of us, his eyes more oblique than ever,
"Mademoiselle will remember it, I am sure!"
It would be impossible to describe the devilish glance he flung
at the poor sinking girl as he withdrew, the horrid emphasis he
threw into those last words, the covert deadly threat they
conveyed to the dullest ears. That he went then, was small
mercy. He had done all the evil he could do at present. If his
desire had been to leave fear behind him, he had certainly
Kit crying softly went into the house; her innocent coquetry more
than sufficiently punished already. And we three looked at one
another with blank faces, It was clear that we had made a
dangerous enemy, and an enemy at our own gates. As the Vidame
had said, these were troublous times when things were done to
men--ay, and to women and children--which we scarce dare to speak
of now. "I wish the Vicomte were here," Croisette said uneasily
after we had discussed several unpleasant contingencies.
"Or even Malines the steward," I suggested.
"He would not be much good," replied Croisette.
"And he is at St. Antonin, and will not be back this week.
Father Pierre too is at Albi."
"You do not think," said Marie, "that he will attack us?"
"Certainly not!" Croisette retorted with contempt. "Even the
Vidame would not dare to do that in time of peace. Besides, he
has not half a score of men here," continued the lad, shrewdly,
"and counting old Gil and ourselves we have as many. And
Pavannes always said that three men could hold the gate at the
bottom of the ramp against a score. Oh, he will not try that!"
"Certainly not!" I agreed. And so we crushed Marie. "But for
Louis de Pavannes--"
Catherine interrupted me. She came out quickly looking a
different person; her face flushed with anger, her tears dried.
"Anne!" she cried, imperiously, "what is the matter down below
--will you see?"
I had no difficulty in doing that. All the sounds of town life
came up to us on the terrace. Lounging there we could hear the
chaffering over the wheat measures in the cloisters of the
market-square, the yell of a dog, the voice of a scold, the
church bell, the watchman's cry. I had only to step to the wall
to overlook it all. On this summer afternoon the town had been
for the most part very quiet. If we had not been engaged in our
own affairs we should have taken the alarm before, remarking in
the silence the first beginnings of what was now a very
respectable tumult. It swelled louder even as we stepped to the
We could see--a bend in the street laying it open--part of the
Vidame's house; the gloomy square hold which had come to him from
his mother. His own chateau of Bezers lay far away in Franche
Comte, but of late he had shown a preference--Catherine could
best account for it, perhaps--for this mean house in Caylus. It
was the only house in the town which did not belong to us. It
was known as the House of the Wolf, and was a grim stone building
surrounding a courtyard. Rows of wolves' heads carved in stone
flanked the windows, whence their bare fangs grinned day and
night at the church porch opposite.
The noise drew our eyes in this direction; and there lolling in a
window over the door, looking out on the street with a laughing
eye, was Bezers himself. The cause of his merriment--we had not
far to look for it--was a horseman who was riding up the street
under difficulties. He was reining in his steed--no easy task on
that steep greasy pavement--so as to present some front to a
score or so of ragged knaves who were following close at his
heels, hooting and throwing mud and pebbles at him. The man had
drawn his sword, and his oaths came up to us, mingled with shrill
cries of "VIVE LA MESSE!" and half drowned by the clattering of
the horse's hoofs. We saw a stone strike him in the face, and
draw blood, and heard him swear louder than before.
"Oh!" cried Catherine, clasping her hands with a sudden shriek
of indignation, "my letter! They will get my letter!"
"Death!" exclaimed Croisette, "She is right! It is M. de
Pavannes' courier! This must be stopped! We cannot stand this,
"They shall pay dearly for it, by our Lady!" I cried swearing
myself. "And in peace time too--the villains! Gil! Francis!" I
shouted, "where are you?"
And I looked round for my fowling piece, while Croisette jumped
on the wall, and forming a trumpet with his hands, shrieked at
the top of his voice, "Back! he bears a letter from the
But the device did not succeed, and I could not find my gun. For
a moment we were helpless, and before I could have fetched the
gun from the house, the horseman and the hooting rabble at his
heels, had turned a corner and were hidden by the roofs.
Another turn however would bring them out in front of the
gateway, and seeing this we hurried down the ramp to meet them.
I stayed a moment to tell Gil to collect the servants, and, this
keeping me, Croisette reached the narrow street outside before
me. As I followed him I was nearly knocked down by the rider,
whose face was covered with, dirt and blood, while fright had
rendered his horse unmanageable. Darting aside I let him pass
--he was blinded and could not see me--and then found that
Croisette--brave lad! had collared the foremost of the ruffians,
and was beating him with his sheathed sword, while the rest of
the rabble stood back, ashamed, yet sullen, and with anger in
their eyes. A dangerous crew, I thought; not townsmen, most of
"Down with the Huguenots!" cried one, as I appeared, one bolder
than the rest.
"Down with the CANAILLE!" I retorted, sternly eyeing the ill-
looking ring. "Will you set yourselves above the king's peace,
dirt that you are? Go back to your kennels!"
The words were scarcely out of my mouth, before I saw that the
fellow whom Croisette was punishing had got hold of a dagger. I
shouted a warning, but it came too late. The blade fell, and--
thanks to God--striking the buckle of the lad's belt, glanced off
harmless. I saw the steel flash up again--saw the spite in the
man's eyes: but this time I was a step nearer, and before the
weapon fell, I passed my sword clean through the wretch's body.
He went down like a log, Croisette falling with him, held fast by
his stiffening fingers.
I had never killed a man before, nor seen a man die; and if I had
stayed to think about it, I should have fallen sick perhaps. But
it was no time for thought; no time for sickness. The crowd were
close upon us, a line of flushed threatening faces from wall to
wall. A single glance downwards told me that the man was dead,
and I set my foot upon his neck. "Hounds! Beasts!" I cried,
not loudly this time, for though I was like one possessed with
rage, it was inward rage, "go to your kennels! Will you dare to
raise a hand against a Caylus? Go--or when the Vicomte returns,
a dozen of you shall hang in the market-place!"
I suppose I looked fierce enough--I know I felt no fear, only a
strange exaltation--for they slunk away. Unwillingly, but with
little delay the group melted, Bezers' following--of whom I knew
the dead man was one--the last to go. While I still glared at
them, lo! the street was empty; the last had disappeared round
the bend. I turned to find Gil and half-a-dozen servants
standing with pale faces at my back. Croisette seized my hand
with a sob. "Oh, my lord," cried Gil, quaveringly. But I shook
one off, I frowned at the other.
"Take up this carrion!" I said, touching it with my foot, "And
hang it from the justice-elm. And then close the gates! See to
it, knaves, and lose no time."
CHAPTER II. THE VIDAME'S THREAT.
Croisette used to tell a story, of the facts of which I have no
remembrance, save as a bad dream. He would have it that I left
my pallet that night--I had one to myself in the summer, being
the eldest, while he and Marie slept on another in the same room
--and came to him and awoke him, sobbing and shaking and
clutching him; and begging him in a fit of terror not to let me
go. And that so I slept in his arms until morning. But as I
have said, I do not remember anything of this, only that I had an
ugly dream that night, and that when I awoke I was lying with him
and Marie; so I cannot say whether it really happened.
At any rate, if I had any feeling of the kind it did not last
long; on the contrary--it would be idle to deny it--I was
flattered by the sudden respect, Gil and the servants showed me.
What Catherine thought of the matter I could not tell. She had
her letter and apparently found it satisfactory. At any rate we
saw nothing of her. Madame Claude was busy boiling simples, and
tending the messenger's hurts. And it seemed natural that I
should take command.
There could be no doubt--at any rate we had none that the assault
on the courier had taken place at the Vidame's instance. The
only wonder was that he had not simply cut his throat and taken
the letter. But looking back now it seems to me that grown men
mingled some childishness with their cruelty in those days--days
when the religious wars had aroused our worst passions. It was
not enough to kill an enemy. It pleased people to make--I speak
literally--a football of his head, to throw his heart to the
dogs. And no doubt it had fallen in with the Vidame's grim
humour that the bearer of Pavannes' first love letter should
enter his mistress's presence, bleeding and plaistered with mud.
And that the riff-raff about our own gates should have part in
Bezers' wrath would be little abated by the issue of the affair,
or the justice I had done on one of his men. So we looked well
to bolts, and bars, and windows, although the castle is well-nigh
impregnable, the smooth rock falling twenty feet at least on
every side from the base of the walls. The gatehouse, Pavannes
had shown us, might be blown up with gunpowder indeed, but we
prepared to close the iron grating which barred the way half-way
up the ramp. This done, even if the enemy should succeed in
forcing an entrance he would only find himself caught in a trap--
in a steep, narrow way exposed to a fire from the top of the
flanking walls, as well as from the front. We had a couple of
culverins, which the Vicomte had got twenty years before, at the
time of the battle of St. Quentin. We fixed one of these at the
head of the ramp, and placed the other on the terrace, where by
moving it a few paces forward we could train it on Bezers' house,
which thus lay at our mercy,
Not that we really expected an attack. But we did not know what
to expect or what to fear. We had not ten servants, the Vicomte
having taken a score of the sturdiest lackeys and keepers to
attend him at Bayonne. And we felt immensely responsible. Our
main hope was that the Vidame would at once go on to Paris, and
postpone his vengeance. So again and again we cast longing
glances at the House of the Wolf hoping that each symptom of
bustle heralded his departure.
Consequently it was a shock to me, and a great downfall of hopes,
when Gil with a grave face came to me on the terrace and
announced that M. le Vidame was at the gate, asking to see
"It is out of the question that he should see her," the old
servant added, scratching his head in grave perplexity.
"Most certainly. I will see him instead," I answered stoutly.
"Do you leave Francis and another at the gate, Gil. Marie, keep
within sight, lad. And let Croisette stay with me."
These preparations made--and they took up scarcely a moment--I
met the Vidame at the head of the ramp. "Mademoiselle de
Caylus," I said, bowing, "is, I regret to say, indisposed to-day,
"She will not see me?" he asked, eyeing me very unpleasantly.
"Her indisposition deprives her of the pleasure," I answered with
an effort. He was certainly a wonderful man, for at sight of
him, three-fourths of my courage, and all my importance, oozed
out at the heels of my boots.
"She will not see me. Very well," he replied, as if I had not
spoken. And the simple words sounded like a sentence of death.
"Then, M. Anne, I have a crow to pick with you. What
compensation do you propose to make for the death of my servant?
A decent, quiet fellow, whom you killed yesterday, poor man,
because his enthusiasm for the true faith carried him away a
"Whom I killed because he drew a dagger on M. St. Croix de Caylus
at the Vicomte's gate," I answered steadily. I had thought about
this of course and was ready for it. "You are aware, M. de
Bezers," I continued, "that the Vicomte has jurisdiction
extending to life and death over all persons within the valley?"
"My household excepted," he rejoined quietly.
"Precisely; while they are within the curtilage of your house," I
retorted. "However as the punishment was summary, and the man
had no time to confess himself, I am willing to--"
"To pay Father Pierre to say ten masses for his soul."
The way the Vidame received this surprised me. He broke into
boisterous laughter. "By our Lady, my friend," he cried with
rough merriment, "but you are a joker! You are indeed. Masses?
Why the man was a Protestant!"
And that startled me more than anything which had gone before;
more indeed than I can explain. For it seemed to prove that this
man, laughing his unholy laugh was not like other men. He did
not pick and choose his servants for their religion. He was sure
that the Huguenot would stone his fellow at his bidding; the
Catholic cry "Vive Coligny!" I was so completely taken aback
that I found no words to answer him, and it was Croisette who
said smartly, "Then how about his enthusiasm for the true faith,
M. le Vidame?"
"The true faith," he answered--"for my servants is my faith."
Then a thought seemed to strike him. "What is more." he
continued slowly, "that it is the true and only faith for all,
thousands will learn before the world is ten days older. Bear my
words in mind, boy! They will come back to you. And now hear
me," he went on in his usual tone, "I am anxious to accommodate a
neighbour. It goes without saying that I would not think of
putting you, M. Anne, to any trouble for the sake of that rascal
of mine. But my people will expect something. Let the plaguy
fellow who caused all this disturbance be given up to me, that I
may hang him; and let us cry quits."
"That is impossible!" I answered coolly. I had no need to ask
what he meant. Give up Pavannes' messenger indeed! Never!
He regarded me--unmoved by my refusal--with a smile under which I
chafed, while I was impotent to resent it. "Do not build too
much on a single blow, young gentleman," he said, shaking his
head waggishly. "I had fought a dozen times when I was your age.
However, I understand that you refuse to give me satisfaction?"
"In the mode you mention, certainly," I replied. "But--"
"Bah!" he exclaimed with a sneer, "business first and pleasure
afterwards! Bezers will obtain satisfaction in his own way, I
promise you that! And at his own time. And it will not be on
unfledged bantlings like you. But what is this for?" And he
rudely kicked the culverin which apparently he had not noticed
before, "So! so! understand," he continued, casting a sharp
glance at one and another of us. "You looked to be besieged!
Why you, booby, there is the shoot of your kitchen midden, twenty
feet above the roof of old Fretis' store! And open, I will be
sworn! Do you think that I should have come this way while there
was a ladder in Caylus! Did you take the wolf for a sheep?"
With that he turned on his heel, swaggering away in the full
enjoyment of his triumph. For a triumph it was. We stood
stunned; ashamed to look one another in the face. Of course the
shoot was open. We remembered now that it was, and we were so
sorely mortified by his knowledge and our folly, that I failed in
my courtesy, and did not see him to the gate, as I should have
done. We paid for that later.
"He is the devil in person!" I exclaimed angrily, shaking my
fist at the House of the Wolf, as I strode up and down
impatiently. "I hate him worse!"
"So do I!" said Croisette, mildly. "But that he hates us is a
matter of more importance. At any rate we will close the shoot."
"Wait a moment!" I replied, as after another volley of
complaints directed at our visitor, the lad was moving off to see
to it. What is going on down there?"
"Upon my word, I believe he is leaving us!" Croisette rejoined
For there was a noise of hoofs below us, clattering on the
pavement. Half-a-dozen horsemen were issuing from the House of
the Wolf, the ring of their bridles and the sound of their
careless voices coming up to us through the clear morning air
Bezers' valet, whom we knew by sight, was the last of them. He
had a pair of great saddle-bags before him, and at sight of these
we uttered a glad exclamation. "He is going!" I murmured,
hardly able to believe my eyes. "He is going after all!"
"Wait!" Croisette answered drily.
But I was right. We had not to wait long. He WAS going. In
another moment he came out himself, riding a strong iron-grey
horse: and we could see that he had holsters to his saddle. His
steward was running beside him, to take I suppose his last
orders. A cripple, whom the bustle had attracted from his usual
haunt, the church porch, held up his hand for alms. The Vidame
as he passed, cut him savagely across the face with his whip, and
cursed him audibly.
"May the devil take him!" exclaimed Croisette in just rage. But
I said nothing, remembering that the cripple was a particular pet
of Catherine's. I thought instead of an occasion, not so very
long ago, when the Vicomte being at home, we had had a great
hawking party. Bezers and Catherine had ridden up the street
together, and Catherine giving the cripple a piece of money,
Bezers had flung to him all his share of the game. And my heart
Only for a moment, however. The man was gone; or was going at
any rate. We stood silent and motionless, all watching, until,
after what seemed a long interval, the little party of seven
became visible on the white road far below us--to the northward,
and moving in that direction. Still we watched them, muttering a
word to one another, now and again, until presently the riders
slackened their pace, and began to ascend the winding track that
led to the hills and Cahors; and to Paris also, if one went far
Then at length with a loud "Whoop!" we dashed across the
terrace, Croisette leading, and so through the courtyard to the
parlour; where we arrived breathless. "He is off!" Croisette
cried shrilly. "He has started for Paris! And bad luck go with
him!" And we all flung up our caps and shouted.
But no answer, such as we expected, came from the women folk.
When we picked up our caps, and looked at Catherine, feeling
rather foolish, she was staring at us with a white face and great
scornful eyes. "Fools!" she said. "Fools!"
And that was all. But it was enough to take me aback. I had
looked to see her face lighten at our news; instead it wore an
expression I had never seen on it before. Catherine, so kind and
gentle, calling us fools! And without cause! I did not
understand it. I turned confusedly to Croisette. He was looking
at her, and I saw that he was frightened. As for Madame Claude,
she was crying in the corner. A presentiment of evil made my
heart sink like lead. What had happened?
"Fools!" my cousin repeated with exceeding bitterness, her foot
tapping the parquet unceasingly. "Do you think he would have
stooped to avenge himself on YOU? On you! Or that he could hurt
me one hundredth part as much here as--as--" She broke off
stammering. Her scorn faltered for an instant. "Bah! he is a
man! He knows!" she exclaimed superbly, her chin in the air,
"but you are boys. You do not understand!"
I looked amazedly at this angry woman. I had a difficulty in
associating her with my cousin. As for Croisette, he stepped
forward abruptly, and picked up a white object which was lying at
"Yes, read it!" she cried, "read it! Ah!" and she clenched her
little hand, and in her passion struck the oak table beside her,
so that a stain of blood sprang out on her knuckles. Why did you
not kill him? Why did you not do it when you had the chance?
You were three to one," she hissed. "You had him in your power!
You could have killed him, and you did not! Now he will kill
Madame Claude muttered something tearfully; something about
Pavannes and the saints. I looked over Croisette's shoulder, and
read the letter. It began abruptly without any term of address,
and ran thus, "I have a mission in Paris, Mademoiselle, which
admits of no delay, your mission, as well as my own--to see
Pavannes. You have won his heart. It is yours, and I will bring
it you, or his right hand in token that he has yielded up his
claim to yours. And to this I pledge myself."
The thing bore no signature. It was written in some red fluid--
blood perhaps--a mean and sorry trick! On the outside was
scrawled a direction to Mademoiselle de Caylus. And the packet
was sealed with the Vidame's crest, a wolfs head.
"The coward! the miserable coward!" Croisette cried. He was
the first to read the meaning of the thing. And his eyes were
full of tears--tears of rage.
For me I was angry exceedingly. My veins seemed full of fire, as
I comprehended the mean cruelty which could thus torture a girl.
"Who delivered this?" I thundered. "Who gave it to
Mademoiselle? How did it reach her hands? Speak, some one!"
A maid, whimpering in the background, said that Francis had given
it to her to hand to Mademoiselle.
I ground my teeth together, while Marie, unbidden, left the room
to seek Francis--and a stirrup leather. The Vidame had brought
the note in his pocket no doubt, rightly expecting that he would
not get an audience of my cousin. Returning to the gate alone he
had seen his opportunity, and given the note to Francis, probably
with a small fee to secure its transmission.
Croisette and I looked at one another, apprehending all this.
"He will sleep at Cahors to-night," I said sullenly.
The lad shook his head and answered in a low voice, "I am afraid
not. His horses are fresh. I think he will push on. He always
travels quickly. And now you know--"
I nodded, understanding only too well.
Catherine had flung herself into a chair. Her arms lay nerveless
on the table. Her face was hidden in them. But now, overhearing
us, or stung by some fresh thought, she sprang to her feet in
anguish. Her face twitched, her form seemed to stiffen as she
drew herself up like one in physical pain. "Oh, I cannot bear
it!" she cried to us in dreadful tones. "Oh, will no one do
anything? I will go to him! I will tell him I will give him up!
I will do whatever he wishes if he will only spare him!"
Croisette went from the room crying. It was a dreadful sight for
us--this girl in agony. And it was impossible to reassure her!
Not one of us doubted the horrible meaning of the note, its
covert threat. Civil wars and religious hatred, and I fancy
Italian modes of thought, had for the time changed our countrymen
to beasts. Far more dreadful things were done then than this
which Bezers threatened--even if he meant it literally--far more
dreadful things were suffered. But in the fiendish ingenuity of
his vengeance on her, the helpless, loving woman, I thought Raoul
de Bezers stood alone. Alas! it fares ill with the butterfly
when the cat has struck it down. Ill indeed!
Madame Claude rose and put her arms round the girl, dismissing me
by a gesture. I went out, passing through two or three scared
servants, and made at once for the terrace. I felt as if I could
only breathe there. I found Marie and St. Croix together,
silent, the marks of tears on their faces. Our eyes met and they
told one tale.
We all spoke at the same time. "When?" we said. But the others
looked to me for an answer.
I was somewhat sobered by that, and paused to consider before I
replied. "At daybreak to-morrow," I decided presently. "It is
an hour after noon already. We want money, and the horses are
out. It will take an hour to bring them in. After that we might
still reach Cahors to-night, perhaps; but more haste less speed
you know No. At daybreak to-morrow we will start"
They nodded assent.
It was a great thing we meditated. No less than to go to Paris--
the unknown city so far beyond the hills--and seek out M. de
Pavannes, and warn him. It would be a race between the Vidame
and ourselves; a race for the life of Kit's suitor. Could we
reach Paris first, or even within twenty-four hours of Bezers'
arrival, we should in all probability be in time, and be able to
put Pavannes on his guard. It had been the first thought of all
of us, to take such men as we could get together and fall upon
Bezers wherever we found him, making it our simple object to kill
him. But the lackeys M. le Vicomte had left with us, the times
being peaceful and the neighbours friendly, were poor-spirited
fellows. Bezers' handful, on the contrary, were reckless Swiss
riders--like master, like men. We decided that it would be wiser
simply to warn Pavannes, and then stand by him if necessary.
We might have despatched a messenger. But our servants--Gil
excepted, and he was too old to bear the journey--were ignorant
of Paris. Nor could any one of them be trusted with a mission so
delicate. We thought of Pavannes' courier indeed. But he was a
Rochellois, and a stranger to the capital. There was nothing for
it but to go ourselves.
Yet we did not determine on this adventure with light hearts, I
remember. Paris loomed big and awesome in the eyes of all of us.
The glamour of the court rather frightened than allured us. We
felt that shrinking from contact with the world which a country
life engenders, as well as that dread of seeming unlike other
people which is peculiar to youth. It was a great plunge, and a
dangerous which we meditated. And we trembled. If we had known
more--especially of the future--we should have trembled more.
But we were young, and with our fears mingled a delicious
excitement. We were going on an adventure of knight errantry in
which we might win our spurs. We were going to see the world and
play men's parts in it! to save a friend and make our mistress
We gave our orders. But we said nothing to Catherine or Madame
Claude; merely bidding Gil tell them after our departure. We
arranged for the immediate despatch of a message to the Vicomte
at Bayonne, and charged Gil until he should hear from him to keep
the gates closed, and look well to the shoot of the kitchen
midden. Then, when all was ready, we went to our pallets, but it
was with hearts throbbing with excitement and wakeful eyes.
"Anne! Anne!" said Croisette, rising on his elbow and speaking
to me some three hours later, "what do you think the Vidame meant
this morning when he said that about the ten days?"
"What about the ten days?" I asked peevishly. He had roused me
just when I was at last falling asleep.
"About the world seeing that his was the true faith--in ten
"I am sure I do not know. For goodness' sake let us go to
sleep," I replied. For I had no patience with Croisette, talking
such nonsense, when we had our own business to think about.
CHAPTER III. THE ROAD TO PARIS.
The sun had not yet risen above the hills when we three with a
single servant behind us drew rein at the end of the valley; and
easing our horses on the ascent, turned in the saddle to take a
last look at Caylus--at the huddled grey town, and the towers
above it. A little thoughtful we all were, I think. The times
were rough and our errand was serious. But youth and early
morning are fine dispellers of care; and once on the uplands we
trotted gaily forward, now passing through wide glades in the
sparse oak forest, where the trees all leaned one way, now over
bare, wind-swept downs; or once and again descending into a
chalky bottom, where the stream bubbled through deep beds of
fern, and a lonely farmhouse nestled amid orchards.
Four hours' riding, and we saw below us Cahors, filling the bend
of the river. We cantered over the Vallandre Bridge, which there
crosses the Lot, and so to my uncle's house of call in the
square. Here we ordered breakfast, and announced with pride that
we were going to Paris.
Our host raised his hands. "Now there!" he exclaimed, regret in
his voice. "And if you had arrived yesterday you could have
travelled up with the Vidame de Bezers! And you a small party--
saving your lordships' presence--and the roads but so-so!"
"But the Vidame was riding with only half-a-dozen attendants
also!" I answered, flicking my boot in a careless way.
The landlord shook his head. "Ah, M. le Vidame knows the world!"
he answered shrewdly. "He is not to be taken off his guard, not
he! One of his men whispered me that twenty staunch fellows
would join him at Chateauroux. They say the wars are over, but"
--and the good man, shrugging his shoulders, cast an expressive
glance at some fine flitches of bacon which were hanging in his
chimney. "However, your lordships know better than I do," he
added briskly. "I am a poor man. I only wish to live at peace
with my neighbours, whether they go to mass or sermon."
This was a sentiment so common in those days and so heartily
echoed by most men of substance both in town and country, that we
did not stay to assent to it; but having received from the worthy
fellow a token which would insure our obtaining fresh cattle at
Limoges, we took to the road again, refreshed in body, and with
some food for thought.
Five-and-twenty attendants were more than even such a man as
Bezers, who had many enemies, travelled with in those days;
unless accompanied by ladies. That the Vidame had provided such
a reinforcement seemed to point to a wider scheme than the one
with which we had credited him. But we could not guess what his
plans were; since he must have ordered his people before he heard
of Catherine's engagement. Either his jealousy therefore had put
him on the alert earlier, or his threatened attack on Pavannes
was only part of a larger plot. In either case our errand seemed
more urgent, but scarcely more hopeful.
The varied sights and sounds however of the road--many of them
new to us--kept us from dwelling over much on this. Our eyes
were young, and whether it was a pretty girl lingering behind a
troop of gipsies, or a pair of strollers from Valencia
--JONGLEURS they still called themselves--singing in the old
dialect of Provence, or a Norman horse-dealer with his string of
cattle tied head and tail, or the Puy de Dome to the eastward
over the Auvergne hills, or a tattered old soldier wounded in the
wars--fighting for either side, according as their lordships
inclined--we were pleased with all.
Yet we never forgot our errand. We never I think rose in the
morning--too often stiff and sore--without thinking "To-day or
to-morrow or the next day--" as the case might be--"we shall make
all right for Kit!" For Kit! Perhaps it was the purest
enthusiasm we were ever to feel, the least selfish aim we were
ever to pursue. For Kit!
Meanwhile we met few travellers of rank on the road. Half the
nobility of France were still in Paris enjoying the festivities
which were being held to mark the royal marriage. We obtained
horses where we needed them without difficulty. And though we
had heard much of the dangers of the way, infested as it was said
to be by disbanded troopers, we were not once stopped or annoyed.
But it is not my intention to chronicle all the events of this my
first journey, though I dwell on them with pleasure; or to say
what I thought of the towns, all new and strange to me, through
which we passed. Enough that we went by way of Limoges,
Chateauroux and Orleans, and that at Chateauroux we learned the
failure of one hope we had formed. We had thought that Bezers
when joined there by his troopers would not be able to get
relays; and that on this account we might by travelling post
overtake him; and possibly slip by him between that place and
Paris. But we learned at Chateauroux that his troop had received
fresh orders to go to Orleans and await him there; the result
being that he was able to push forward with relays so far. He
was evidently in hot haste. For leaving there with his horses
fresh he passed through Angerville, forty miles short of Paris,
at noon, whereas we reached it on the evening of the same day--
the sixth after leaving Caylus.
We rode into the yard of the inn--a large place, seeming larger
in the dusk--so tired that we could scarcely slip from our
saddles. Jean, our servant, took the four horses, and led them
across to the stables, the poor beasts hanging their heads, and
following meekly. We stood a moment stamping our feet, and
stretching our legs. The place seemed in a bustle, the clatter
of pans and dishes proceeding from the windows over the entrance,
with a glow of light and the sound of feet hurrying in the
passages. There were men too, half-a-dozen or so standing at the
doors of the stables, while others leaned from the windows. One
or two lanthorns just kindled glimmered here and there in the
semi-darkness; and in a corner two smiths were shoeing a horse.
We were turning from all this to go in, when we heard Jean's
voice raised in altercation, and thinking our rustic servant had
fallen into trouble, we walked across to the stables near which
he and the horses were still lingering. "Well, what is it?" I
"They say that there is no room for the horses," Jean answered
querulously, scratching his head; half sullen, half cowed, a
country servant all over.
"And there is not!" cried the foremost of the gang about the
door, hastening to confront us in turn. His tone was insolent,
and it needed but half an eye to see that his fellows were
inclined to back him up. He stuck his arms akimbo and faced us
with an impudent smile. A lanthorn on the ground beside him
throwing an uncertain light on the group, I saw that they all
wore the same badge.
"Come," I said sternly, "the stables are large, and your horses
cannot fill them. Some room must be found for mine."
"To be sure! Make way for the king!" he retorted. While one
jeered "VIVE LE ROI!" and the rest laughed. Not good-
humouredly, but with a touch of spitefulness.
Quarrels between gentlemen's servants were as common then as they
are to-day. But the masters seldom condescended to interfere.
"Let the fellows fight it out," was the general sentiment. Here,
however, poor Jean was over-matched, and we had no choice but to
see to it ourselves.
"Come, men, have a care that you do not get into trouble," I
urged, restraining Croisette by a touch, for I by no means wished
to have a repetition of the catastrophe which had happened at
Caylus. "These horses belong to the Vicomte de Caylus. If your
master be a friend of his, as may very probably be the case, you
will run the risk of getting into trouble."
I thought I heard, as I stopped speaking, a subdued muttering,
and fancied I caught the words, "PAPEGOT! Down with the Guises!"
But the spokesman's only answer aloud was "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" he repeated, flapping his arms in defiance.
"Here is a cock of a fine hackle!" And so on, and so forth,
while he turned grinning to his companions, looking for their
I was itching to chastise him, and yet hesitating, lest the thing
should have its serious side, when a new actor appeared. "Shame,
you brutes!" cried a shrill voice above us in the clouds it
seemed. I looked up, and saw two girls, coarse and handsome,
standing at a window over the stable, a light between them. "For
shame! Don't you see that they are mere children? Let them be,"
The men laughed louder than ever; and for me, I could not stand
by and be called a child. "Come here," I said, beckoning to the
man in the doorway. "Come here, you rascal, and I will give you
the thrashing you deserve for speaking to a gentleman!"
He lounged forward, a heavy fellow, taller than myself and six
inches wider at the shoulders. My heart failed me a little as I
measured him. But the thing had to be done. If I was slight, I
was wiry as a hound, and in the excitement had forgotten my
fatigue. I snatched from Marie a loaded riding-whip he carried,
and stepped forward.
"Have a care, little man!" cried the girl gaily--yet half in
pity, I think. "Or that fat pig will kill you!"
My antagonist did not join in the laugh this time. Indeed it
struck me that his eye wandered and that he was not so ready to
enter the ring as his mates were to form it. But before I could
try his mettle, a hand was laid on my shoulder. A man appearing
from I do not know where--from the dark fringe of the group, I
suppose--pushed me aside, roughly, but not discourteously.
"Leave this to me!" he said, coolly stepping before me. "Do not
dirty your hands with the knave, master. I am pining for work
and the job will just suit me! I will fit him for the worms
before the nuns above can say an AVE!"
I looked at the newcomer. He was a stout fellow; not over tall,
nor over big; swarthy, with prominent features. The plume of his
bonnet was broken, but he wore it in a rakish fashion; and
altogether he swaggered with so dare-devil an air, clinking his
spurs and swinging out his long sword recklessly, that it was no
wonder three or four of the nearest fellows gave back a foot.
"Come on!" he cried, boisterously, forming a ring by the simple
process of sweeping his blade from side to side, while he made
the dagger in his left hand flash round his head. "Who is for
the game? Who will strike a blow for the little Admiral? Will
you come one, two, three at once; or all together? Anyway, come
on, you--" And he closed his challenge with a volley of frightful
oaths, directed at the group opposite.
"It is no quarrel of yours," said the big man, sulkily; making no
show of drawing his sword, but rather drawing back himself.
"All quarrels are my quarrels! and no quarrels are your
quarrels. That is about the truth, I fancy!" was the smart
retort; which our champion rendered more emphatic by a playful
lunge that caused the big bully to skip again.
There was a loud laugh at this, even among the enemy's backers.
"Bah, the great pig!" ejaculated the girl above. "Spit him!"
and she spat down on the whilom Hector--who made no great figure
"Shall I bring you a slice of him, my dear?" asked my rakehelly
friend, looking up and making his sword play round the shrinking
wretch. "Just a tit-bit, my love?" he added persuasively. "A
mouthful of white liver and caper sauce?"
"Not for me, the beast!" the girl cried, amid the laughter of
"Not a bit? If I warrant him tender? Ladies' meat?"
"Bah! no!" and she stolidly spat down again.
"Do you hear? The lady has no taste for you," the tormentor
cried. "Pig of a Gascon!" And deftly sheathing his dagger, he
seized the big coward by the ear, and turning him round, gave him
a heavy kick which sent him spinning over a bucket, and down
against the wall. There the bully remained, swearing and rubbing
himself by turns; while the victor cried boastfully, "Enough of
him. If anyone wants to take up his quarrel, Blaise Bure is his
man. If not, let us have an end of it. Let someone find stalls
for the gentlemen's horses before they catch a chill; and have
done with it. As for me," he added, and then he turned to us and
removed his hat with an exaggerated flourish, "I am your
lordship's servant to command."
I thanked him with a heartiness, half-earnest, half-assumed. His
cloak was ragged, his trunk hose, which had once been fine
enough, were stained, and almost pointless, He swaggered
inimitably,and had led-captain written large upon him. But he
had done us a service, for Jean had no further trouble about the
horses. And besides one has a natural liking for a brave man,
and this man was brave beyond question.
"You are from Orleans," he said respectfully enough, but as one
asserting a fact, not asking a question.
"Yes," I answered, somewhat astonished, "Did you see us come in?"
"No, but I looked at your boots, gentlemen," he replied. "White
dust, north; red dust, south. Do you see?"
"Yes, I see," I said, with admiration. "You must have been
brought up in a sharp school, M. Bure."
"Sharp masters make sharp scholars," he replied, grinning. And
that answer I had occasion to remember afterwards.
"You are from Orleans, also?" I asked, as we prepared to go in.
"Yes, from Orleans too, gentlemen. But earlier in the day. With
letters--letters of importance!" And bestowing something like a
wink of confidence on us, he drew himself up, looked sternly at
the stable-folk, patted himself twice on the chest, and finally
twirled his moustaches, and smirked at the girl above, who was
I thought it likely enough that we might find it hard to get rid
of him. But this was not so. After listening with gratification
to our repeated thanks, he bowed with the same grotesque
flourish, and marched off as grave as a Spaniard, humming--
"Ce petit homme tant joli!
Qui toujours cause et toujours rit,
Qui toujours baise sa mignonne,
Dieu gard' de mal ce petit homme!"
On our going in, the landlord met us politely, but with
curiosity, and a simmering of excitement also in his manner.
"From Paris, my lords?" he asked, rubbing his hands and bowing
low. "Or from the south?"
"From the south," I answered. "From Orleans, and hungry and
tired, Master Host."
"Ah!" he replied, disregarding the latter part of my answer,
while his little eyes twinkled with satisfaction. "Then I dare
swear, my lords, you have not heard the news?" He halted in the
narrow passage, and lifting the candle he carried, scanned our
faces closely, as if he wished to learn something about us before
"News!" I answered brusquely, being both tired, and as I had
told him, hungry. "We have heard none, and the best you can give
us will be that our supper is ready to be served."
But even this snub did not check his eagerness to tell his news.
"The Admiral de Coligny," he said, breathlessly, "you have not
heard what has happened to him?"
"To the admiral? No, what?" I inquired rapidly. I was
interested at last.
For a moment let me digress. The few of my age will remember,
and the many younger will have been told, that at this time the
Italian queen-mother was the ruling power in France. It was
Catharine de' Medici's first object to maintain her influence
over Charles the Ninth--her son; who, ricketty, weak, and
passionate, was already doomed to an early grave. Her second, to
support the royal power by balancing the extreme Catholics
against the Huguenots. For the latter purpose she would coquet
first with one party, then with the other. At the present moment
she had committed herself more deeply than was her wont to the
Huguenots. Their leaders, the Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the
King of Navarre, and the Prince of Conde, were supposed to be
high in favour, while the chiefs of the other party, the Duke of
Guise, and the two Cardinals of his house, the Cardinal of
Lorraine and the Cardinal of Guise, were in disgrace; which, as
it seemed, even their friend at court, the queen's favourite son,
Henry of Anjou, was unable to overcome.
Such was the outward aspect of things in August, 1572, but there
were not wanting rumours that already Coligny, taking advantage
of the footing given him, had gained an influence over the young
king, which threatened Catharine de' Medici herself. The
admiral, therefore, to whom the Huguenot half of France had long
looked as to its leader, was now the object of the closest
interest to all; the Guise faction, hating him--as the alleged
assassin of the Duke of Guise--with an intensity which probably
was not to be found in the affection of his friends, popular with
the latter as he was.
Still, many who were not Huguenots had a regard for him as a
great Frenchman and a gallant soldier. We--though we were of the
old faith, and the other side--had heard much of him, and much
good. The Vicomte had spoken of him always as a great man, a man
mistaken, but brave, honest and capable in his error. Therefore
it was that when the landlord mentioned him, I forgot even my
"He was shot, my lords, as he passed through the Rue des Fosses,
yesterday," the man declared with bated breath. "It is not known
whether he will live or die. Paris is in an uproar, and there
are some who fear the worst."
"But," I said doubtfully, "who has dared to do this? He had a
safe conduct from the king himself."
Our host did not answer; shrugging his shoulders instead, he
opened the door, and ushered us into the eating-room.
Some preparations for our meal had already been made at one end
of the long board. At the other was seated a man past middle
age; richly but simply dressed. His grey hair, cut short about a
massive head, and his grave, resolute face, square-jawed, and
deeply-lined, marked him as one to whom respect was due apart
from his clothes. We bowed to him as we took our seats.
He acknowledged the salute, fixing us a moment with a penetrating
glance; and then resumed his meal. I noticed that his sword and
belt were propped against a chair at his elbow, and a dag,
apparently loaded, lay close to his hand by the candlestick. Two
lackeys waited behind his chair, wearing the badge we had
remarked in the inn yard.
We began to talk, speaking in low tones that we might not disturb
him. The attack on Coligny had, if true, its bearing on our own
business. For if a Huguenot so great and famous and enjoying the
king's special favour still went in Paris in danger of his life,
what must be the risk that such an one as Pavannes ran? We had
hoped to find the city quiet. If instead it should be in a state
of turmoil Bezers' chances were so much the better; and ours
--and Kit's, poor Kit's--so much the worse.
Our companion had by this time finished his supper. But he still
sat at table, and seemed to be regarding us with some curiosity.
At length he spoke. "Are you going to Paris, young gentlemen?"
he asked, his tone harsh and high-pitched.
We answered in the affirmative. "To-morrow?" he questioned.
"Yes," we answered; and expected him to continue the
conversation. But instead he became silent, gazing abstractedly
at the table; and what with our meal, and our own talk we had
almost forgotten him again, when looking up, I found him at my
elbow, holding out in silence a small piece of paper.
I started his face was so grave. But seeing that there were
half-a-dozen guests of a meaner sort at another table close by, I
guessed that he merely wished to make a private communication to
us; and hastened to take the paper and read it. It contained a
scrawl of four words only--
"Va chasser l'Idole."
No more. I looked at him puzzled; able to make nothing out of
it. St. Croix wrinkled his brow over it with the same result.
It was no good handing it to Marie, therefore.
"You do not understand?" the stranger continued, as he put the
scrap of paper back in his pouch.
"No," I answered, shaking my head. We had all risen out of
respect to him, and were standing a little group about him.
"Just so; it is all right then," he answered, looking at us as it
seemed to me with grave good-nature. "It is nothing. Go your
way. But--I have a son yonder not much younger than you, young
gentlemen. And if you had understood, I should have said to you,
'Do not go! There are enough sheep for the shearer!'"
He was turning away with this oracular saying when Croisette
touched his sleeve. "Pray can you tell us if it be true," the
lad said eagerly, "that the Admiral de Coligny was wounded
"It is true," the other answered, turning his grave eyes on his
questioner, while for a moment his stern look failed him, "It is
true, my boy," he added with an air of strange solemnity. " Whom
the Lord loveth, He chasteneth. And, God forgive me for saying
it, whom He would destroy, He first maketh mad."
He had gazed with peculiar favour at Croisette's girlish face, I
thought: Marie and I were dark and ugly by the side of the boy.
But he turned from him now with a queer, excited gesture,
thumping his gold-headed cane on the floor. He called his
servants in a loud, rasping voice, and left the room in seeming
anger, driving them before him, the one carrying his dag, and the
other, two candles.
When I came down early next morning, the first person I met was
Blaise Bure. He looked rather fiercer and more shabby by
daylight than candlelight. But he saluted me respectfully; and
this, since it was clear that he did not respect many people,
inclined me to regard him with favour. It is always so, the more
savage the dog, the more highly we prize its attentions. I asked
him who the Huguenot noble was who had supped with us. For a
Huguenot we knew he must be.
"The Baron de Rosny," he answered; adding with a sneer, "He is a
careful man! If they were all like him, with eyes on both sides
of his head and a dag by his candle--well, my lord, there would
be one more king in France--or one less! But they are a blind
lot: as blind as bats." He muttered something farther in which
I caught the word "to-night." But I did not hear it all; or
understand any of it.
"Your lordships are going to Paris?" he resumed in a different
tone. When I said that we were, he looked at me in a shamefaced
way, half timid, half arrogant. "I have a small favour to ask of
you then," he said. "I am going to Paris myself. I am not
afraid of odds, as you have seen. But the roads will be in a
queer state if there be anything on foot in the city, and--well,
I would rather ride was you gentlemen than alone."
"You are welcome to join us," I said. "But we start in half-an-
hour. Do you know Paris well?"
"As well as my sword-hilt," he replied briskly, relieved I
thought by my acquiescence, "And I have known that from my
breeching. If you want a game at PAUME, or a pretty girl to
kiss, I can put you in the way for the one or the other."
The half rustic shrinking from the great city which I felt,
suggested to me that our swashbuckling friend might help us if he
would. "Do you know M. de Pavannes?" I asked impulsively,
"Where he lives in Paris, I mean?"
"M. Louis de Pavannes?" quoth he.
"I know--" he replied slowly, rubbing his chin and looking at the
ground in thought--"where he had his lodgings in town a while
ago, before--Ah! I do know! I remember," he added, slapping his
thigh, "when I was in Paris a fortnight ago I was told that his
steward had taken lodgings for him in the Rue St. Antoine."
"Good!" I answered overjoyed. "Then we want to dismount there,
if you can guide us straight to the house."
"I can," he replied simply. "And you will not be the worse for
my company. Paris is a queer place when there is trouble to the
fore, but your lordships have got the right man to pilot you
I did not ask him what trouble he meant, but ran indoors to
buckle on my sword, and tell Marie and Croisette of the ally I
had secured. They were much pleased, as was natural; so that we
took the road in excellent spirits intending to reach the city in
the afternoon. But Marie's horse cast a shoe, and it was some
time before we could find a smith. Then at Etampes, where we
stopped to lunch, we were kept an unconscionable time waiting for
it. And so we approached Paris for the first time at sunset. A
ruddy glow was at the moment warming the eastern heights, and
picking out with flame the twin towers of Notre Dame, and the one
tall tower of St. Jacques la Boucherie. A dozen roofs higher
than their neighbours shone hotly; and a great bank of cloud,
which lay north and south, and looked like a man's hand stretched
over the city, changed gradually from blood-red to violet, and
from violet to black, as evening fell.
Passing within the gates and across first one bridge and then
another, we were astonished and utterly confused by the noise and
hubbub through which we rode. Hundreds seemed to be moving this
way and that in the narrow streets. Women screamed to one
another from window to window. The bells of half-a-dozen
churches rang the curfew. Our country ears were deafened. Still
our eyes had leisure to take in the tall houses with their high-
pitched roofs, and here and there a tower built into the wall;
the quaint churches, and the groups of townsfolk--sullen fellows
some of them with a fierce gleam in their eyes---who, standing in
the mouths of reeking alleys, watched us go by.
But presently we had to stop. A crowd had gathered to watch a
little cavalcade of six gentlemen pass across our path. They
were riding two and two, lounging in their saddles and chattering
to one another, distainfully unconscious of the people about
them, or the remarks they excited. Their graceful bearing and
the richness of their dress and equipment surpassed anything I
had ever seen. A dozen pages and lackeys were attending them on
foot, and the sound of their jests and laughter came to us over
the heads of the crowd.
While I was gazing at them, some movement of the throng drove
back Bure's horse against mine. Bure himself uttered a savage
oath; uncalled for so far as I could see. But my attention was
arrested the next moment by Croisette, who tapped my arm with his
riding whip. "Look!" he cried in some excitement, "is not that
I followed the direction of the lad's finger--as well as I could
for the plunging of my horse which Bure's had frightened--and
scrutinized the last pair of the troop. They were crossing the
street in which we stood, and I had only a side view of them; or
rather of the nearer rider. He was a singularly handsome man, in
age about twenty-two or twenty-three with long lovelocks falling
on his lace collar and cloak of orange silk. His face was sweet
and kindly and gracious to a marvel. But he was a stranger to
"I could have sworn," exclaimed Croisette, "that that was Louis
himself--M. de Pavannes!"
"That?" I answered, as we began to move again, the crowd melting
before us. "Oh, dear, no!"
"No! no! The farther man!" he explained.
But I had not been able to get a good look at the farther of the
two. We turned in our saddles and peered after him. His back in
the dusk certainly reminded me of Louis. Bure, however, who said
he knew M. de Pavannes by sight, laughed at the idea. "Your
friend," he said, "is a wider man than that!" And I thought he
was right there--but then it might be the cut of the clothes.
"They have been at the Louvre playing paume, I'll be sworn!" he
went on. "So the Admiral must be better. The one next us was M.
de Teligny, the Admiral's son-in-law. And the other, whom you
mean, was the Comte de la Rochefoucault."
We turned as he spoke into a narrow street near the river, and
could see not far from us a mass of dark buildings which Bure
told us was the Louvre--the king's residence. Out of this street
we turned into a short one; and here Bure drew rein and rapped
loudly at some heavy gates. It was so dark that when, these
being opened, he led the way into a courtyard, we could see
little more than a tall, sharp-gabled house, projecting over us
against a pale sky; and a group of men and horses in one corner.
Bure spoke to one of the men, and begging us to dismount, said
the footman would show us to M. de Pavannes.
The thought that we were at the end of our long journey, and in
time to warn Louis of his danger, made us forget all our
exertions, our fatigue and stiffness. Gladly throwing the
bridles to Jean we ran up the steps after the servant. The thing
was done. Hurrah! the thing was done!
The house--as we passed through a long passage and up some steps
--seemed full of people. We heard voices and the ring of arms
more than once. But our guide, without pausing, led us to a
small room lighted by a hanging lamp. "I will inform M. de
Pavannes of your arrival," he said respectfully, and passed
behind a curtain, which seemed to hide the door of an inner
apartment. As he did so the clink of glasses and the hum of
conversation reached us.
"He has company supping with him," I said nervously. I tried to
flip some of the dust from my boots with my whip. I remembered
that this was Paris.
"He will be surprised to see us," quoth Croisette, laughing--a
little shyly, too, I think. And so we stood waiting.
I began to wonder as minutes passed by--the gay company we had
seen putting it in my mind, I suppose--whether M. de Pavannes, of
Paris, might not turn out to be a very different person from
Louis de Pavannes, of Caylus; whether the king's courtier would
be as friendly as Kit's lover. And I was still thinking of this
without having settled the point to my satisfaction, when the
curtain was thrust aside again. A very tall man, wearing a
splendid suit of black and silver and a stiff trencher-like ruff,
came quickly in, and stood smiling at us, a little dog in his
arms. The little dog sat up and snarled: and Croisette gasped.
It was not our old friend Louis certainly! It was not Louis de
Pavannes at all. It was no old friend at all, It was the Vidame
"Welcome, gentlemen!" he said, smiling at us--and never had the
cast been so apparent in his eyes. "Welcome to Paris, M. Anne!"
CHAPTER IV. ENTRAPPED!
There was a long silence. We stood glaring at him, and he smiled
upon us--as a cat smiles. Croisette told me afterwards that he
could have died of mortification--of shame and anger that we had
been so outwitted. For myself I did not at once grasp the
position. I did not understand. I could not disentangle myself
in a moment from the belief in which I had entered the house--
that it was Louis de Pavannes' house. But I seemed vaguely to
suspect that Bezers had swept him aside and taken his place. My
first impulse therefore--obeyed on the instant--was to stride to
the Vidame's side and grasp his arm. "What have you done?" I
cried, my voice sounding hoarsely even in my own ears. "What
have you done with M. de Pavannes? Answer me!"
He showed just a little more of his sharp white teeth as he
looked down at my face--a flushed and troubled face doubtless.
"Nothing--yet," he replied very mildly. And he shook me off.
"Then," I retorted, "how do you come here?"
He glanced at Croisette and shrugged his shoulders, as if I had
been a spoiled child. "M. Anne does not seem to understand," he
said with mock courtesy, "that I have the honour to welcome him
to my house the Hotel Bezers, Rue de Platriere."
"The Hotel Bezers! Rue de Platriere!" I cried confusedly. "But
Blaise Bure told us that this was the Rue St. Antoine!"
"Ah!" he replied as if slowly enlightened--the hypocrite! "Ah!
I see!" and he smiled grimly. "So you have made the
acquaintance of Blaise Bure, my excellent master of the horse!
Worthy Blaise! Indeed, indeed, now I understand. And you
thought, you whelps," he continued, and as he spoke his tone
changed strangely, and he fixed us suddenly with angry eyes, "to
play a rubber with me! With me, you imbeciles! You thought the
wolf of Bezers could be hunted down like any hare! Then listen,
and I will tell you the end of it. You are now in my house and
absolutely at my mercy. I have two score men within call who
would cut the throats of three babes at the breast, if I bade
them! Ay," he, added, a wicked exultation shining in his eyes,
"they would, and like the job!"
He was going on to say more, but I interrupted him. The rage I
felt, caused as much by the thought of our folly as by his
arrogance, would let me be silent no longer. "First, M. de
Bezers, first," I broke out fiercely, my words leaping over one
another in my haste, "a word with you! Let me tell you what I
think of you! You are a treacherous hound, Vidame! A cur! a
beast! And I spit upon you! Traitor and assassin!" I shouted,
"is that not enough? Will nothing provoke you? If you call
yourself a gentleman, draw!"
He shook his head; he was still smiling, still unmoved. "I do
not do my own dirty work," he said quietly, "nor stint my footmen
of their sport, boy."
"Very well!" I retorted. And with the words I drew my sword,
and sprang as quick as lightning to the curtain by which he had
entered. "Very well, we will kill you first!" I cried
wrathfully, my eye on his eye, and every savage passion in my
breast aroused, "and take our chance with the lackeys afterwards!
Marie! Croisette!" I cried shrilly, "on him, lads!"
But they did not answer! They did not move or draw. For the
moment indeed the man was in my power. My wrist was raised, and
I had my point at his breast, I could have run him through by a
single thrust. And I hated him. Oh, how I hated him! But he
did not stir. Had he spoken, had he moved so much as an eyelid,
or drawn back his foot, or laid his hand on his hilt, I should
have killed him there. But he did not stir and I could not do
it. My hand dropped. "Cowards!" I cried, glancing bitterly
from him to them--they had never failed me before. "Cowards!" I
muttered, seeming to shrink into myself as I said the word. And
I flung my sword clattering on the floor.
"That is better!" he drawled quite unmoved, as if nothing more
than words had passed, as if he had not been in peril at all.
"It was what I was going to ask you to do. If the other young
gentlemen will follow your example, I shall be obliged. Thank
you. Thank you."
Croisette, and a minute later Marie, obeyed him to the letter! I
could not understand it. I folded my arms and gave up the game
in despair, and but for very shame I could have put my hands to
my face and cried. He stood in the middle under the lamp, a head
taller than the tallest of us; our master. And we stood round
him trapped, beaten, for all the world like children. Oh, I
could have cried! This was the end of our long ride, our
aspirations, our knight-errantry!
"Now perhaps you will listen to me," he went on smoothly, "and
hear what I am going to do. I shall keep you here, young
gentlemen, until you can serve me by carrying to mademoiselle,
your cousin, some news of her betrothed. Oh, I shall not detain
you long," he added with an evil smile. "You have arrived in
Paris at a fortunate moment. There is going to be a--well, there
is a little scheme on foot appointed for to-night--singularly
lucky you are!--for removing some objectionable people, some
friends of ours perhaps among them, M. Anne. That is all. You
will hear shots, cries, perhaps screams. Take no notice. You
will be in no danger. For M. de Pavannes," he continued, his
voice sinking, "I think that by morning I shall be able to give
you a--a more particular account of him to take to Caylus--to
Mademoiselle, you understand."
For a moment the mask was off. His face took a sombre
brightness. He moistened his lips with his tongue as though he
saw his vengeance worked out then and there before him, and were
gloating over the picture. The idea that this was so took such a
hold upon me that I shrank back, shuddering; reading too in
Croisette's face the same thought--and a late repentance. Nay,
the malignity of Bezers' tone, the savage gleam of joy in his
eyes appalled me to such an extent that I fancied for a moment I
saw in him the devil incarnate!
He recovered his composure very quickly, however; and turned
carelessly towards the door. "If you will follow me," he said,
"I will see you disposed of. You may have to complain of your
lodging--I have other things to think of to-night than
hospitality, But you shall not need to complain of your supper."
He drew aside the curtain as he spoke, and passed into the next
room before us, not giving a thought apparently to the
possibility that we might strike him from behind. There
certainly was an odd quality apparent in him at times which
seemed to contradict what we knew of him.
The room we entered was rather long than wide, hung with
tapestry, and lighted by silver lamps. Rich plate, embossed, I
afterwards learned, by Cellini the Florentine--who died that year
I remember--and richer glass from Venice, with a crowd of meaner
vessels filled with meats and drinks covered the table;
disordered as by the attacks of a numerous party. But save a
servant or two by the distant dresser, and an ecclesiastic at the
far end of the table, the room was empty.
The priest rose as we entered, the Vidame saluting him as if they
had not met that day. "You are welcome M. le Coadjuteur," he
said; saying it coldly, however, I thought. And the two eyed one
another with little favour; rather as birds of prey about to
quarrel over the spoil, than as host and guest. Perhaps the
Coadjutor's glittering eyes and great beak-like nose made me
think of this.
"Ho! ho!" he said, looking piercingly at us--and no doubt we
must have seemed a miserable and dejected crew enough. "Who are
these? Not the first-fruits of the night, eh?"
The Vidame looked darkly at him. "No," he answered brusquely.
"They are not. I am not particular out of doors, Coadjutor, as
you know, but this is my house, and we are going to supper.
Perhaps you do not comprehend the distinction. Still it exists
--for me," with a sneer.
This was as good as Greek to us. But I so shrank from the
priest's malignant eyes, which would not quit us, and felt so
much disgust mingled with my anger that when Bezers by a gesture
invited me to sit down, I drew back. "I will not eat with you,"
I said sullenly; speaking out of a kind of dull obstinacy, or
perhaps a childish petulance.
It did not occur to me that this would pierce the Vidame's
armour. Yet a dull red showed for an instant in his cheek, and
he eyed me with a look, that was not all ferocity, though the
veins in his great temples swelled. A moment, nevertheless, and
he was himself again. "Armand," he said quietly to the servant,
"these gentlemen will not sup with me. Lay for them at the other
Men are odd. The moment he gave way to me I repented of my
words. It was almost with reluctance that I followed the servant
to the lower part of the table. More than this, mingled with the
hatred I felt for the Vidame, there was now a strange sentiment
towards him--almost of admiration; that had its birth I think in
the moment, when I held his life in my hand, and he had not
We ate in silence; even after Croisette by grasping my hand under
the table had begged me not to judge him hastily. The two at the
upper end talked fast, and from the little that reached us, I
judged that the priest was pressing some course on his host,
which the latter declined to take.
Once Bezers raised his voice. "I have my own ends to serve!" he
broke out angrily, adding a fierce oath which the priest did not
rebuke, "and I shall serve them. But there I stop. You have
your own. Well, serve them, but do not talk to me of the cause!
The cause? To hell with the cause! I have my cause, and you
have yours, and my lord of Guise has his! And you will not make
me believe that there is any other!"
"The king's?" suggested the priest, smiling sourly.
"Say rather the Italian woman's!" the Vidame answered
recklessly--meaning the queen-mother, Catherine de' Medici, I
"Well, then, the cause of the Church?" the priest persisted.
"Bah! The Church? It is you, my friend!" Bezers rejoined,
rudely tapping his companion--at that moment in the act of
crossing himself--on the chest. "The Church?" he continued;
"no, no, my friend. I will tell you what you are doing. You
want me to help you to get rid of your branch, and you offer in
return to aid me with mine--and then, say you, there will be no
stick left to beat either of us. But you may understand once for
all"--and the Vidame struck his hand heavily down among the
glasses--"that I will have no interference with my work, master
Clerk! None! Do you hear? And as for yours, it is no business
of mine. That is plain speaking, is it not?"
The priest's hand shook as he raised a full glass to his lips,
but he made no rejoinder, and the Vidame, seeing we had finished,
rose. "Armand!" he cried, his face still dark, "take these
gentlemen to their chamber. You understand?"
We stiffly acknowledged his salute--the priest taking no notice
of us--and followed the servant from the room; going along a
corridor and up a steep flight of stairs, and seeing enough by
the way to be sure that resistance was hopeless. Doors opened
silently as we passed, and grim fellows, in corslets and padded
coats, peered out. The clank of arms and murmur of voices
sounded continuously about us; and as we passed a window the
jingle of bits, and the hollow clang of a restless hoof on the
flags below, told us that the great house was for the time a
fortress. I wondered much. For this was Paris, a city with
gates and guards; the night a short August night. Yet the
loneliest manor in Quercy could scarcely have bristled with more
pikes and musquetoons, on a winter's night and in time of war.
No doubt these signs impressed us all; and Croisette not least.
For suddenly I heard him stop, as he followed us up the narrow
staircase, and begin without warning to stumble down again as
fast as he could. I did not know what he was about; but
muttering something to Marie, I followed the lad to see. At the
foot of the flight of stairs I looked back, Marie and the servant
were standing in suspense, where I had left them. I heard the
latter bid us angrily to return.
But by this time Croisette was at the end of the corridor; and
reassuring the fellow by a gesture I hurried on, until brought to
a standstill by a man opening a door in my face. He had heard
our returning footsteps, and eyed me suspiciously; but gave way
after a moment with a grunt of doubt I hastened on, reaching the
door of the room in which we had supped in time to see something
which filled me with grim astonishment; so much so that I stood
rooted where I was, too proud at any rate to interfere.
Bezers was standing, the leering priest at his elbow. And
Croisette was stooping forward, his hands stretched out in an
attitude of supplication.
"Nay, but M. le Vidame," the lad cried, as I stood, the door in
my hand, "it were better to stab her at once than break her
heart! Have pity on her! If you kill him, you kill her!"
The Vidame was silent, seeming to glower on the boy. The priest
sneered. "Hearts are soon mended--especially women's," he said.
"But not Kit's!" Croisette said passionately--otherwise ignoring
him. "Not Kit's! You do not know her, Vidame! Indeed you do
The remark was ill-timed. I saw a spasm of anger distort Bezers'
face. "Get up, boy!" he snarled, "I wrote to Mademoiselle what
I would do, and that I shall do! A Bezers keeps his word. By
the God above us--if there be a God, and in the devil's name I
doubt it to-night!--I shall keep mine! Go!"
His great face was full of rage. He looked over Croisette's head
as he spoke, as if appealing to the Great Registrar of his vow,
in the very moment in which he all but denied Him. I turned and
stole back the way I had come; and heard Croisette follow.
That little scene completed my misery. After that I seemed to
take no heed of anything or anybody until I was aroused by the
grating of our gaoler's key in the lock, and became aware that he
was gone, and that we were alone in a small room under the tiles.
He had left the candle on the floor, and we three stood round it.
Save for the long shadows we cast on the walls and two pallets
hastily thrown down in one corner, the place was empty. I did
not look much at it, and I would not look at the others. I flung
myself on one of the pallets and turned my face to the wall,
despairing. I thought bitterly of the failure we had made of it,
and of the Vidame's triumph. I cursed St. Croix especially for
that last touch of humiliation he had set to it. Then,
forgetting myself as my anger abated, I thought of Kit so far
away at Caylus--of Kit's pale, gentle face, and her sorrow. And
little by little I forgave Croisette. After all he had not
begged for us--he had not stooped for our sakes, but for hers.
I do not know how long I lay at see-saw between these two moods.
Or whether during that time the others talked or were silent,
moved about the room or lay still. But it was Croisette's hand
on my shoulder, touching me with a quivering eagerness that
instantly communicated itself to my limbs, which recalled me to
the room and its shadows. "Anne!" he cried. "Anne! Are you
"What is it?" I said, sitting up and looking at him.
"Marie," he began, "has--"
But there was no need for him to finish. I saw that Marie was
standing at the far side of the room by the unglazed window;
which, being in a sloping part of the roof, inclined slightly
also. He had raised the shutter which closed it, and on his tip-
toes--for the sill was almost his own height from the floor--was
peering out. I looked sharply at Croisette. "Is there a gutter
outside?" I whispered, beginning to tingle all over as the
thought of escape for the first time occurred to me.
"No," he answered in the same tone. "But Marie says he can see a
beam below, which he thinks we can reach."
I sprang up, promptly displaced Marie, and looked out. When my
eyes grew accustomed to the gloom I discerned a dark chaos of
roofs and gables stretching as far as I could see before me.
Nearer, immediately under the window, yawned a chasm--a narrow
street. Beyond this was a house rather lower than that in which
we were, the top of its roof not quite reaching the level of my
"I see no beam," I said.
"Look below!" quoth Marie, stolidly,
I did so, and then saw that fifteen or sixteen feet below our
window there was a narrow beam which ran from our house to the
opposite one--for the support of both, as is common in towns. In
the shadow near the far end of this--it was so directly under our
window that I could only see the other end of it--I made out a
casement, faintly illuminated from within.
I shook my head.
"We cannot get down to it," I said, measuring the distance to the
beam and the depth below it, and shivering.
"Marie says we can, with a short rope," Croisette replied. His
eyes were glistening with excitement.
"But we have no rope!" I retorted. I was dull--as usual. Marie
made no answer. Surely he was the most stolid and silent of
brothers. I turned to him. He was taking off his waistcoat and
"Good!" I cried. I began to see now. Off came our scarves and
kerchiefs also, and fortunately they were of home make, long and
strong. And Marie had a hank of four-ply yarn in his pocket as
it turned out, and I had some stout new garters, and two or three
yards of thin cord, which I had brought to mend the girths, if
need should arise. In five minutes we had fastened them
"I am the lightest," said Croisette.
"But Marie has the steadiest head," I objected. We had learned
that long ago--that Marie could walk the coping-stones of the
battlements with as little concern as we paced a plank set on the
"True," Croisette had to admit. "But he must come last, because
whoever does so will have to let himself down."
I had not thought of that, and I nodded. It seemed that the lead
was passing out of my hands and I might resign myself. Still one
thing I would have. As Marie was to come last, I would go first.
My weight would best test the rope. And accordingly it was so
There was no time to be lost. At any moment we might be
interrupted. So the plan was no sooner conceived than carried
out. The rope was made fast to my left wrist. Then I mounted on
Marie's shoulders, and climbed--not without quavering--through
the window, taking as little time over it as possible, for a bell
was already proclaiming midnight.
All this I had done on the spur of the moment. But outside,
hanging by my hands in the darkness, the strokes of the great
bell in my ears, I had a moment in which to think. The sense of
the vibrating depth below me, the airiness, the space and gloom
around, frightened me. "Are you ready?" muttered Marie, perhaps
with a little impatience. He had not a scrap of imagination, had
"No! wait a minute!" I blurted out, clinging to the sill, and
taking a last look at the bare room, and the two dark figures
between me and the light. "No!" I added, hurriedly.
"Croisette--boys, I called you cowards just now. I take it back!
I did not mean it! That is all!" I gasped. "Let go!"
A warm touch on my hand. Something like a sob.
The next moment I felt myself sliding down the face of the house,
down into the depth. The light shot up. My head turned giddily.
I clung, oh, how I clung to that rope! Half way down the thought
struck me that in case of accident those above might not be
strong enough to pull me up again. But it was too late to think
of that, and in another second my feet touched the beam. I
breathed again. Softly, very gingerly, I made good my footing on
the slender bridge, and, disengaging the rope, let it go. Then,
not without another qualm, I sat down astride of the beam, and
whistled in token of success. Success so far!
It was a strange position, and I have often dreamed of it since.
In the darkness about me Paris lay to all seeming asleep. A
veil, and not the veil of night only, was stretched between it
and me; between me, a mere lad, and the strange secrets of a
great city; stranger, grimmer, more deadly that night than ever
before or since. How many men were watching under those dimly-
seen roofs, with arms in their hands? How many sat with murder
at heart? How many were waking, who at dawn would sleep for
ever, or sleeping who would wake only at the knife's edge? These
things I could not know, any more than I could picture how many
boon-companions were parting at that instant, just risen from the
dice, one to go blindly--the other watching him--to his death? I
could not imagine, thank Heaven for it, these secrets, or a
hundredth part of the treachery and cruelty and greed that lurked
at my feet, ready to burst all bounds at a pistol-shot. It had
no significance for me that the past day was the 23rd of August,
or that the morrow was St. Bartholomew's feast!
No. Yet mingled with the jubilation which the possibility of
triumph over our enemy raised in my breast, there was certainly a
foreboding. The Vidame's hints, no less than his open boasts,
had pointed to something to happen before morning--something
wider than the mere murder of a single man. The warning also
which the Baron de Rosny had given us at the inn occurred to me
with new meaning. And I could not shake the feeling off. I
fancied, as I sat in the darkness astride of my beam, that I
could see, closing the narrow vista of the street, the heavy mass
of the Louvre; and that the murmur of voices and the tramp of men
assembling came from its courts, with now and again the stealthy
challenge of a sentry, the restrained voice of an officer.
Scarcely a wayfarer passed beneath me: so few, indeed, that I
had no fear of being detected from below. And yet unless I was
mistaken, a furtive step, a subdued whisper were borne to me on
every breeze, from every quarter. And the night was full of
Perhaps all this was mere nervousness, the outcome of my
position. At any rate I felt no more of it when Croisette joined
me. We had our daggers, and that gave me some comfort. If we
could once gain entrance to the house opposite, we had only to
beg, or in the last resort force our way downstairs and out, and
then to hasten with what speed we might to Pavannes' dwelling.
Clearly it was a question of time only now; whether Bezers' band
or we should first reach it. And struck by this I whispered
Marie to be quick. He seemed to be long in coming.
He scrambled down hand over hand at last, and then I saw that he
had not lingered above for nothing. He had contrived after
getting out of the window to let down the shutter. And more he
had at some risk lengthened our rope, and made a double line of
it, so that it ran round a hinge of the shutter; and when he
stood beside us, he took it by one end and disengaged it. Good,
"Bravo!" I said softly, clapping him on the back. "Now they
will not know which way the birds have flown!"
So there we all were, one of us, I confess, trembling. We slid
easily enough along the beam to the opposite house. But once
there in a row one behind the other with our faces to the wall,
and the night air blowing slantwise--well I am nervous on a
height and I gasped. The window was a good six feet above the
beam, The casement--it was unglazed--was open, veiled by a thin
curtain, and alas! protected by three horizontal bars--stout
bars they looked.
Yet we were bound to get up, and to get in; and I was preparing
to rise to my feet on the giddy bridge as gingerly as I could,
when Marie crawled quickly over us, and swung himself up to the
narrow sill, much as I should mount a horse on the level. He
held out his foot to me, and making an effort I reached the same
dizzy perch. Croisette for the time remained below.
A narrow window-ledge sixty feet above the pavement, and three
bars to cling to! I cowered to my holdfasts, envying even
Croisette. My legs dangled airily, and the black chasm of the
street seemed to yawn for me. For a moment I turned sick. I
recovered from that to feel desperate. I remembered that go
forward we must, bars or no bars. We could not regain our old
prison if we would.
It was equally clear that we could not go forward if the inmates
should object. On that narrow perch even Marie was helpless.
The bars of the window were close together. A woman, a child,
could disengage our hands, and then--I turned sick again. I
thought of the cruel stones. I glued my face to the bars, and
pushing aside a corner of the curtain, looked in.
There was only one person in the room--a woman, who was moving
about fully dressed, late as it was. The room was a mere attic,
the counterpart of that we had left. A box-bed with a canopy
roughly nailed over it stood in a corner. A couple of chairs
were by the hearth, and all seemed to speak of poverty and
bareness. Yet the woman whom we saw was richly dressed, though
her silks and velvets were disordered. I saw a jewel gleam in
her hair, and others on her hands. When she turned her face
towards us--a wild, beautiful face, perplexed and tear-stained--I
knew her instantly for a gentlewoman, and when she walked hastily
to the door, and laid her hand upon it, and seemed to listen--
when she shook the latch and dropped her hands in despair and
went back to the hearth, I made another discovery I knew at once,
seeing her there, that we were likely but to change one prison
for another. Was every house in Paris then a dungeon? And did
each roof cover its tragedy?
"Madame!" I said, speaking softly, to attract her attention.
She started violently, not knowing whence the sound came, and
looked round, at the door first. Then she moved towards the
window, and with an affrighted gesture drew the curtain rapidly
Our eyes met. What if she screamed and aroused the house? What,
indeed? "Madame," I said again, speaking hurriedly, and striving
to reassure her by the softness of my voice, "we implore your
help! Unless you assist us we are lost."
"You! Who are you?" she cried, glaring at us wildly, her hand
to her head. And then she murmured to herself, "Mon Dieu! what
will become of me?"
"We have been imprisoned in the house opposite," I hastened to
explain, disjointedly I am afraid. "And we have escaped. We
cannot get back if we would. Unless you let us enter your room
and give us shelter--"
"We shall be dashed to pieces on the pavement," supplied Marie,
with perfect calmness--nay, with apparent enjoyment.
"Let you in here?" she answered, starting back in new terror;
"it is impossible."
She reminded me of our cousin, being, like her pale and dark-
haired. She wore her hair in a coronet, disordered now. But
though she was still beautiful, she was older than Kit, and
lacked her pliant grace. I saw all this, and judging her nature,
I spoke out of my despair. "Madame," I said piteously, "we are
only boys. Croisette! Come up!" Squeezing myself still more
tightly into my corner of the ledge, I made room for him between
us. "See, Madame," I cried, craftily, "will you not have pity on
St. Crois's boyish face and fair hair arrested her attention, as
I had expected. Her expression grew softer, and she murmured,
I caught at the opportunity. "We do but seek a passage through
your room," I said fervently. Good heavens, what had we not at
stake! What if she should remain obdurate? "We are in trouble
--in despair," I panted. "So, I believe, are you. We will help
you if you will first save us. We are boys, but we can fight for
"Whom am I to trust?" she exclaimed, with a shudder. "But
heaven forbid," she continued, her eyes on Croisette's face,
"that, wanting help, I should refuse to give it. Come in, if you
I poured out my thanks, and had forced my head between the bars
--at imminent risk of its remaining there--before the words were
well out of her mouth. But to enter was no easy task after all.
Croisette did, indeed, squeeze through at last, and then by force
pulled first one and then the other of us after him. But only
necessity and that chasm behind could have nerved us, I think, to
go through a process so painful. When I stood, at length on the
floor, I seemed to be one great abrasion from head to foot. And
before a lady, too!
But what a joy I felt, nevertheless. A fig for Bezers now. He
had called us boys; and we were boys. But he should yet find
that we could thwart him. It could be scarcely half-an-hour
after midnight; we might still be in time. I stretched myself
and trod the level door jubilantly, and then noticed, while doing
so, that our hostess had retreated to the door and was eyeing us
I advanced to her with my lowest bow--sadly missing my sword.
"Madame," I said, "I am M. Anne de Caylus, and these are my
brothers. And we are at your service."
"And I," she replied, smiling faintly--I do not know why--"am
Madame de Pavannes, I gratefully accept your offers of service."
"De Pavannes?" I exclaimed, amazed and overjoyed. Madame de
Pavannes! Why, she must be Louis' kinswoman! No doubt she could
tell us where he was lodged, and so rid our task of half its
difficulty. Could anything have fallen out more happily? "You
know then M. Louis de Pavannes?" I continued eagerly.
"Certainly," she answered, smiling with a rare shy sweetness this
time. "Very well indeed. He is my husband."
CHAPTER V. A PRIEST AND A WOMAN.
"He is my husband!"
The statement was made in the purest innocence; yet never, as may
well be imagined, did words fall with more stunning force. Not
one of us answered or, I believe, moved so much as a limb or an
eyelid. We only stared, wanting time to take in the astonishing
meaning of the words, and then more time to think what they meant
to us in particular.
Louis de Pavannes' wife! Louis de Pavannes married! If the
statement were true--and we could not doubt, looking in her face,
that at least she thought she was telling the truth--it meant
that we had been fooled indeed! That we had had this journey for
nothing, and run this risk for a villain. It meant that the
Louis de Pavannes who had won our boyish admiration was the
meanest, the vilest of court-gallants. That Mademoiselle de
Caylus had been his sport and plaything. And that we in trying
to be beforehand with Bezers had been striving to save a
scoundrel from his due. It meant all that, as soon as we grasped
it in the least.
"Madame," said Croisette gravely, after a pause so prolonged that
her smile faded pitifully from her face, scared by our strange
looks. "Your husband has been some time away from you? He only
returned, I think, a week or two ago?"
"That is so," she answered, naively, and our last hope vanished.
"But what of that? He was back with me again, and only
yesterday--only yesterday!" she continued, clasping her hands,
"we were so happy."
"And now, madame?"
She looked at me, not comprehending.
"I mean," I hastened to explain, "we do not understand how you
come to be here. And a prisoner." I was really thinking that
her story might throw some light upon ours.
"I do not know, myself," she said. "Yesterday, in the afternoon,
I paid a visit to the Abbess of the Ursulines."
"Pardon me," Croisette interposed quickly, "but are you not of
the new faith? A Huguenot?"
"Oh, yes," she answered eagerly. "But the Abbess is a very dear
friend of mine, and no bigot. Oh, nothing of that kind, I assure
you. When I am in Paris I visit her once a week. Yesterday,
when I left her, she begged me to call here and deliver a
"Then," I said, "you know this house?"
"Very well, indeed," she replied. "It is the sign of the 'Hand
and Glove,' one door out of the Rue Platriere. I have been in
Master Mirepoix's shop more than once before. I came here
yesterday to deliver the message, leaving my maid in the street,
and I was asked to come up stairs, and still up until I reached
this room. Asked to wait a moment, I began to think it strange
that I should be brought to so wretched a place, when I had
merely a message for Mirepoix's ear about some gauntlets. I
tried the door; I found it locked. Then I was terrified, and
made a noise."
We all nodded. We were busy building up theories--or it might be
one and the same theory--to explain this. "Yes," I said,
"Mirepoix came to me then. 'What does this mean?' I demanded.
He looked ashamed of himself, but he barred my way. 'Only this,'
he said at last, 'that your ladyship must remain here a few
hours--two days at most. No harm whatever is intended to you.
My wife will wait upon you, and when you leave us, all shall be
explained.' He would say no more, and it was in vain I asked him
if he did not take me for some one else; if he thought I was mad.
To all he answered, No. And when I dared him to detain me he
threatened force. Then I succumbed. I have been here since,
suspecting I know not what, but fearing everything."
"That is ended, madame," I answered, my hand on my breast, my
soul in arms for her. Here, unless I was mistaken, was one more
unhappy and more deeply wronged even than Kit; one too who owed
her misery to the same villain. "Were there nine glovers on the
stairs," I declared roundly, "we would take you out and take you
home! Where are your husband's apartments?"
"In the Rue de Saint Merri, close to the church. We have a house
"M. de Pavannes," I suggested cunningly, "is doubtless distracted
by your disappearance."
"Oh, surely," she answered with earnest simplicity, while the
tears sprang to her eyes. Her innocence--she had not the germ of
a suspicion--made me grind my teeth with wrath. Oh, the base
wretch! The miserable rascal! What did the women see, I
wondered--what had we all seen in this man, this Pavannes, that
won for him our hearts, when he had only a stone to give in
I drew Croisette and Marie aside, apparently to consider how we
might force the door. "What is the meaning of this?" I said
softly, glancing at the unfortunate lady. "What do you think,
I knew well what the answer would be.
"Think!" he cried with fiery impatience. "What can any one
think except that that villain Pavannes has himself planned his
wife's abduction? Of course it is so! His wife out of the way
he is free to follow up his intrigues at Caylus. He may then
marry Kit or--Curse him!"
"No," I said sternly, "cursing is no good. We must do something
more. And yet--we have promised Kit, you see, that we would save
him--we must keep our word. We must save him from Bezers at
But Croisette took up the thought with ardour. "From Bezers?"
he cried, his face aglow. "Ay, true! So we must! But then we
will draw lots, who shall fight him and kill him."
I extinguished him by a look. "We shall fight him in turn," I
said, "until one of us kill him. There you are right. But your
turn comes last. Lots indeed! We have no need of lots to learn
which is the eldest."
I was turning from him--having very properly crushed him--to look
for something which we could use to force the door, when he held
up his hand to arrest my attention. We listened, looking at one
another. Through the window came unmistakeable sounds of voices.
"They have discovered our flight," I said, my heart sinking.
Luckily we had had the forethought to draw the curtain across the
casement. Bezers' people could therefore, from their window, see
no more than ours, dimly lighted and indistinct. Yet they would
no doubt guess the way we had escaped, and hasten to cut off our
retreat below. For a moment I looked at the door of our room,
half-minded to attack it, and fight our way out, taking the
chance of reaching the street before Bezers' folk should have
recovered from their surprise and gone down. But then I looked
at Madame. How could we ensure her safety in the struggle?
While I hesitated the choice was taken from us. We heard voices
in the house below, and heavy feet on the stairs.
We were between two fires. I glanced irresolutely round the bare
garret, with its sloping roof, searching for a better weapon. I
had only my dagger. But in vain. I saw nothing that would
serve. "What will you do?" Madame de Pavannes murmured,
standing pale and trembling by the hearth, and looking from one
to another. Croisette plucked my sleeve before I could answer,
and pointed to the box-bed with its scanty curtains. "If they
see us in the room," he urged softly, "while they are half in and
half out, they will give the alarm. Let us hide ourselves
yonder. When they are inside--you understand?"
He laid his hand on his dagger. The muscles of the lad's face
grew tense. I did understand him. "Madame," I said quickly,
"you will not betray us?"
She shook her head. The colour returned to her cheek, and the
brightness to her eyes. She was a true woman. The sense that
she was protecting others deprived her of fear for herself.
The footsteps were on the topmost stair now, and a key was thrust
with a rasping sound into the lock. But before it could be
turned--it fortunately fitted ill--we three had jumped on the bed
and were crouching in a row at the head of it, where the curtains
of the alcove concealed, and only just concealed us, from any one
standing at the end of the room near the door.
I was the outermost, and through a chink could see what passed.
One, two, three people came in, and the door was closed behind
them. Three people, and one of them a woman! My heart--which
had been in my mouth--returned to its place, for the Vidame was
not one. I breathed freely; only I dared not communicate my
relief to the others, lest my voice should be heard. The first
to come in was the woman closely cloaked and hooded. Madame de
Pavannes cast on her a single doubtful glance, and then to my
astonishment threw herself into her arms, mingling her sobs with
little joyous cries of "Oh, Diane! oh, Diane!"
"My poor little one!" the newcomer exclaimed, soothing her with
tender touches on hair and shoulder. "You are safe now. Quite
"You have come to take me away?"
"Of course we have!" Diane answered cheerfully, still caressing
her. "We have come to take you to your husband. He has been
searching for you everywhere. He is distracted with grief,
"Poor Louis!" ejaculated the wife.
"Poor Louis, indeed!" the rescuer answered. "But you will see
him soon. We only learned at midnight where you were. You have
to thank M. le Coadjuteur here for that. He brought me the news,
and at once escorted me here to fetch you."
"And to restore one sister to another," said the priest silkily,
as he advanced a step. He was the very same priest whom I had
seen two hours before with Bezers, and had so greatly disliked!
I hated his pale face as much now as I had then. Even the errand
of good on which he had come could not blind me to his thin-
lipped mouth, to his mock humility and crafty eyes. "I have had
no task so pleasant for many days," added he, with every
appearance of a desire to propitiate.
But, seemingly, Madame de Pavannes had something of the same
feeling towards him which I had myself; for she started at the
sound of his voice, and disengaging herself from her sister's
arms--it seemed it was her sister--shrank back from the pair.
She bowed indeed in acknowledgment of his words. But there was
little gratitude in the movement, and less warmth. I saw the
sister's face--a brilliantly beautiful face it was--brighter eyes
and lips and more lovely auburn hair I have never seen--even Kit
would have been plain and dowdy beside her--I saw it harden
strangely. A moment before, the two had been in one another's
arms. Now they stood apart, somehow chilled and disillusionised.
The shadow of the priest had fallen upon them--had come between
At this crisis the fourth person present asserted himself.
Hitherto he had stood silent just within the door: a plain man,
plainly dressed, somewhat over sixty and grey-haired. He looked
disconcerted and embarrassed, and I took him for Mirepoix--
rightly as it turned out.
"I am sure," he now exclaimed, his voice trembling with anxiety,
or it might be with fear, "your ladyship will regret leaving
here! You will indeed! No harm would have happened to you.
Madame d'O does not know what she is doing, or she would not take
you away. She does not know what she is doing!" he repeated
"Madame d'O!" cried the beautiful Diane, her brown eyes darting
fire at the unlucky culprit, her voice full of angry disdain.
"How dare you--such as you--mention my name? Wretch!"
She flung the last word at him, and the priest took it up. "Ay,
wretch! Wretched man indeed!" he repeated slowly, stretching
out his long thin hand and laying it like the claw of some bird
of prey on the tradesman's shoulder, which flinched, I saw, under
the touch. "How dare you--such as you--meddle with matters of
the nobility? Matters that do not concern you? Trouble! I see
trouble hanging over this house, Mirepoix! Much trouble!"
The miserable fellow trembled visibly under the covert threat.
His face grew pale. His lips quivered. He seemed fascinated by
the priest's gaze. "I am a faithful son of the church," he
muttered; but his voice shook so that the words were scarcely
audible. "I am known to be such! None better known in Paris, M.
"Men are known by their works!" the priest retorted. "Now,
now," he continued, abruptly raising his voice, and lifting his
hand in a kind of exaltation, real or feigned, "is the appointed
time! And now is the day of salvation! and woe, Mirepoix, woe!
woe! to the backslider, and to him that putteth his hand to the
plough and looketh back to-night!"
The layman cowered and shrank before his fierce denunciation;
while Madame de Pavannes gazed from one to the other as if her
dislike for the priest were so great that seeing the two thus
quarrelling, she almost forgave Mirepoix his offence. "Mirepoix
said he could explain," she murmured irresolutely.
The Coadjutor fixed his baleful eyes on him. "Mirepoix," he said
grimly, "can explain nothing! Nothing! I dare him to explain!"
And certainly Mirepoix thus challenged was silent. "Come," the
priest continued peremptorily, turning to the lady who had
entered with him, "your sister must leave with us at once. We
have no time to lose."
"But what what does it mean!" Madame de Pavannes said, as though
she hesitated even now. "Is there danger still?"
"Danger!" the priest exclaimed, his form seeming to swell, and
the exaltation I had before read in his voice and manner again
asserting itself. "I put myself at your service, Madame, and
danger disappears! I am as God to-night with powers of life and
death! You do not understand me? Presently you shall. But you
are ready. We will go then. Out of the way, fellow!" he
thundered, advancing upon the door.
But Mirepoix, who had placed himself with his back to it, to my
astonishment did not give way. His full bourgeois face was pale;
yet peeping through my chink, I read in it a desperate
resolution. And oddly--very oddly, because I knew that, in
keeping Madame de Pavannes a prisoner, he must be in the wrong--I
sympathised with him. Low-bred trader, tool of Pavannes though
he was, I sympathised with him, when he said firmly:
"She shall not go!"
"I say she shall!" the priest shrieked, losing all control over
himself. " Fool! Madman! You know not what you do!" As the
words passed his lips, he made an adroit forward movement,
surprised the other, clutched him by the arms, and with a
strength I should never have thought lay in his meagre frame,
flung him some paces into the room. "Fool!" he hissed, shaking
his crooked fingers at him in malignant triumph. "There is no
man in Paris, do you hear--or woman either--shall thwart me to-
"Is that so? Indeed?"
The words, and the cold, cynical voice, were not those of
Mirepoix; they came from behind. The priest wheeled round, as if
he had been stabbed in the back. I clutched Croisette, and
arrested the cramped limb I was moving under cover of the noise.
The speaker was Bezers! He stood in the open door-way, his great
form filling it from post to post, the old gibing smile on his
face. We had been so taken up, actors and audience alike, with
the altercation, that no one had heard him ascend the stairs. He
still wore the black and silver suit, but it was half hidden now
under a dark riding cloak which just disclosed the glitter of his
weapons. He was booted and spurred and gloved as for a journey.
"Is that so?" he repeated mockingly, as his gaze rested in turn
on each of the four, and then travelled sharply round the room.
"So you will not be thwarted by any man in Paris, to-night, eh?
Have you considered, my dear Coadjutor, what a large number of
people there are in Paris? It would amuse me very greatly now--
and I'm sure it would the ladies too, who must pardon my abrupt
entrance--to see you put to the test; pitted against--shall we
say the Duke of Anjou? Or M. de Guise, our great man? Or the
Admiral? Say the Admiral foot to foot?"
Rage and fear--rage at the intrusion, fear of the intruder--
struggled in the priest's face. "How do you come here, and what
do you want?" he inquired hoarsely. If looks and tones could
kill, we three, trembling behind our flimsy screen, had been
freed at that moment from our enemy.
"I have come in search of the young birds whose necks you were
for stretching, my friend!" was Bezers' answer. "They have
vanished. Birds they must be, for unless they have come into
this house by that window, they have flown away with wings."
"They have not passed this way," the priest declared stoutly,
eager only to get rid of the other and I blessed him for the
words! "I have been here since I left you."
But the Vidame was not one to accept any man's statement. "Thank
you; I think I will see for myself," he answered coolly.
"Madame," he continued, speaking to Madame de Pavannes as he
passed her, "permit me."
He did not look at her, or see her emotion, or I think he must
have divined our presence. And happily the others did not
suspect her of knowing more than they did. He crossed the floor
at his leisure,and sauntered to the window, watched by them with
impatience. He drew aside the curtain, and tried each of the
bars, and peered through the opening both up and down, An oath
and an expression of wonder escaped him. The bars were standing,
and firm and strong; and it did not occur to him that we could
have passed between them. I am afraid to say how few inches they
As he turned, he cast a casual glance at the bed--at us; and
hesitated. He had the candle in his hand, having taken it to the
window the better to examine the bars; and it obscured his sight.
He did not see us. The three crouching forms, the strained white
faces, the starting eyes, that lurked in the shadow of the
curtain escaped him. The wild beating of our hearts did not
reach his ears. And it was well for him that it was so. If he
had come up to the bed I think that we should have killed him, I
know that we should have tried. All the blood in me had gone to
my head, and I saw him through a haze--larger than life. The
exact spot near the buckle of his cloak where I would strike him,
downwards and inwards, an inch above the collar-bone,--this only
I saw clearly. I could not have missed it. But he turned away,
his face darkening, and went back to the group near the door, and
never knew the risk he had run.
CHAPTER VI. MADAME'S FRIGHT.
And we breathed again. The agony of suspense, which Bezers'
pause had created, passed away. But the night already seemed to
us as a week of nights. An age of experience, an aeon of
adventures cut us off--as we lay shaking behind the curtain--from
Caylus and its life. Paris had proved itself more treacherous
than we had even expected to find it. Everything and everyone
shifted, and wore one face one minute, and one another. We had
come to save Pavannes' life at the risk of our own; we found him
to be a villain! Here was Mirepoix owning himself a treacherous
wretch, a conspirator against a woman; we sympathised with him.
The priest had come upon a work of charity and rescue; we loathed
the sound of his voice, and shrank from him, we knew not why,
seeming only to read a dark secret, a gloomy threat in each
doubtful word he uttered. He was the strangest enigma of all.
Why did we fear him? Why did Madame de Pavannes, who apparently
had known him before, shudder at the touch of his hand? Why did
his shadow come even between her and her sister, and estrange
them? so that from the moment Pavannes' wife saw him standing by
Diane's side, she forgot that the latter had come to save, and
looked on her in doubt and sorrow, almost with repugnance.
We left the Vidame going back to the fireplace. He stooped to
set down the candle by the hearth. "They are not here," he said,
as he straightened himself again, and looked curiously at his
companions. He had apparently been too much taken up with the
pursuit to notice them before. "That is certain, so I have the
less time to lose," he continued. "But I would--yes, my dear
Coadjutor, I certainly would like to know before I go, what you
are doing here. Mirepoix--Mirepoix is an honest man. I did not
expect to find you in HIS house. And two ladies? Two! Fie,
Coadjutor. Ha! Madame d'O, is it? My dear lady," he continued,
addressing her in a whimsical tone, "do not start at the sound of
your own name! It would take a hundred hoods to hide your eyes,
or bleach your lips to the common colour; I should have known you
at once, had I looked at you. And your companion? Pheugh!"
He broke off, whistling softly. It was clear that he recognised
Madame de Pavannes, and recognised her with astonishment. The
bed creaked as I craned my neck to see what would follow. Even
the priest seemed to think that some explanation was necessary,
for he did not wait to be questioned.
"Madame de Pavannes," he said in a dry, husky voice, and without
looking up, "was spirited hither yesterday; and detained against
her will by this good man, who will have to answer for it.
Madame d'O discovered her whereabouts, and asked me to escort her
here without loss of time to enforce her sister's release."
"And her restoration to her distracted husband?"
"Just so," the priest assented, acquiring confidence, I thought.
"And Madame desires to go?"
"Surely! Why not?"
"Well," the Vidame drawled, his manner such as to bring the blood
to Madame de Pavannes' cheek, "it depends on the person who--to
use your phrase, M. le Coadjuteur--spirited her hither."
"And that," Madame herself retorted, raising her head, while her
voice quivered with indignation and anger, "was the Abbess of the
Ursulines. Your suspicions are base, worthy of you and unworthy
of me, M. le Vidame! Diane!" she continued sharply, taking her
sister's arm, and casting a disdainful glance at Bezers, "let us
go. I want to be with, my husband. I am stifled in this room."
"We are going, little one," Diane murmured reassuringly. But I
noticed that the speaker's animation, which had been as a soul to
her beauty when she entered the room, was gone. A strange
stillness was it fear of the Vidame? had taken its place.
"The Abbess of the Ursulines?" Bezers continued thoughtfully.
"SHE brought you here, did she?" There was surprise, genuine
surprise, in his voice. "A good soul, and, I think I have heard,
a friend of yours. Umph!"
"A very dear friend," Madame answered stiffly. "Now, Diane!"
"A dear friend! And she spirited you hither yesterday!"
commented the Vidame, with the air of one solving an anagram.
"And Mirepoix detained you; respectable Mirepoix, who is said to
have a well-filled stocking under his pallet, and stands well
with the bourgeoisie. He is in the plot. Then at a very late
hour, your affectionate sister, and my good friend the Coadjutor,
enter to save you. From what?"
No one spoke. The priest looked down, his cheek. livid with
"From what?" Bezers continued with grim playfulness. "There is
the mystery. From the clutches of this profligate Mirepoix, I
suppose. From the dangerous Mirepoix. Upon my honour," with a
sudden ring of resolution in his tone, "I think you are safer
here; I think you had better stay where you are, Madame, until
morning! And risk Mirepoix!"
"Oh, no! no!" Madame cried vehemently.
"Oh, yes! yes!" he replied. "What do you say, Coadjutor? Do
you not think so?"
The priest looked down sullenly. His voice shook as he murmured
in answer, "Madame will please herself. She has a character, M.
le Vidame. But if she prefer to stay here--well!"
"Oh, she has a character, has she?" rejoined the giant, his eyes
twinkling with evil mirth, "and she should go home with you, and
my old friend Madame d'O, to save it! That is it, is it? No,
no," he continued when he had had his silent laugh out, "Madame
de Pavannes will do very well here--very well here until morning.
We have work to do. Come. Let us go and do it."
"Do you mean it?" said the priest, starting and looking up with
a subtle challenge--almost a threat--in his tone.
"Yes, I do."
Their eyes met: and seeing their looks, I chuckled, nudging
Croisette. No fear of their discovering us now. I recalled the
old proverb which says that when thieves fall out, honest men
come by their own, and speculated on the chance of the priest
freeing us once for all from M. de Bezers.
But the two were ill-matched. The Vidame could have taken up the
other with one hand and dashed his head on the floor. And it did
not end there. I doubt if in craft the priest was his equal.
Behind a frank brutality Bezers--unless his reputation belied
him--concealed an Italian intellect. Under a cynical
recklessness he veiled a rare cunning and a constant suspicion;
enjoying in that respect a combination of apparently opposite
qualities, which I have known no other man to possess in an equal
degree, unless it might be his late majesty, Henry the Great. A
child would have suspected the priest; a veteran might have been
taken in by the Vidame.
And indeed the priest's eyes presently sank. "Our bargain is to
go for nothing?" he muttered sullenly.
"I know of no bargain," quoth the Vidame. "And I have no time to
lose, splitting hairs here. Set it down to what you like. Say
it is a whim of mine, a fad, a caprice. Only understand that
Madame de Pavannes stays. We go. And--" he added this, as a
sudden thought seemed to strike him, "though I would not
willingly use compulsion to a lady, I think Madame d'O had better
"You speak masterfully," the priest said with a sneer, forgetting
the tone he had himself used a few minutes before to Mirepoix.
"Just so. I have forty horsemen over the way," was the dry
answer. "for the moment, I am master of the legions, Coadjutor."
"That is true," Madame d'O said; so softly that I started. She
had scarcely spoken since Bezers' entrance. As she spoke now,
she shook back the hood from her face and disclosed the chestnut
hair clinging about her temples--deep blots of colour on the
abnormal whiteness of her skin, "That is true, M. de Bezers," she
said. "You have the legions. You have the power. But you will
not use it, I think, against an old friend. You will not do us
this hurt when I--But listen."
He would not. In the very middle of her appeal he cut her short
--brute that he was! "No Madame!" he burst out violently,
disregarding the beautiful face, the supplicating glance, that
might have moved a stone, "that is just what I will not do. I
will not listen! We know one another. Is not that enough?"
She looked at him fixedly. He returned her gaze, not smiling
now, but eyeing her with a curious watchfulness.
And after a long pause she turned from him. "Very well," she
said softly, and drew a deep, quivering breath, the sound of
which reached us. "Then let us go." And without--strangest
thing of all--bestowing a word or look on her sister, who was
weeping bitterly in a chair, she turned to the door and led the
way out, a shrug of her shoulders the last thing I marked.
The poor lady heard her departing step however,
and sprang up. It dawned upon her that she was being deserted.
"Diane! Diane!" she cried distractedly--and I had to put my
hand on Croisette to keep him quiet, there was such fear and pain
in her tone--"I will go! I will not be left behind in this
dreadful place! Do you hear? Come back to me, Diane!"
It made my blood run wildly. But Diane did not come back.
Strange! And Bezers too was unmoved. He stood between the poor
woman and the door, and by a gesture bid Mirepoix and the priest
pass out before him. "Madame," he said--and his voice, stern and
hard as ever, expressed no jot of compassion for her, rather such
an impatient contempt as a puling child might elicit--"you are
safe here. And here you will stop! Weep if you please," he
added cynically, "you will have fewer tears to shed to-morrow."
His last words--they certainly were odd ones--arrested her
attention. She checked her sobs, being frightened I think, and
looked up at him. Perhaps he had spoken with this in view, for
while she still stood at gaze, her hands pressed to her bosom, he
slipped quickly out and closed the door behind him. I heard a
muttering for an instant outside, and then the tramp of feet
descending the stairs. They were gone, and we were still
For Madame, she had clean forgotten our presence--of that I am
sure--and the chance of escape we might afford. On finding
herself alone she gazed a short time in alarmed silence at the
door, and then ran to the window and peered out, still trembling,
terrified, silent. So she remained a while.
She had not noticed that Bezers on going out had omitted to lock
the door behind him. I had. But I was unwilling to move
hastily. Some one might return to see to it before the Vidame
left the house. And besides the door was not over strong, and if
locked would be no obstacle to the three of us when we had only
Mirepoix to deal with. So I kept the others where they were by a
nudge and a pinch, and held my breath a moment, straining my ears
to catch the closing of the door below. I did not hear that.
But I did catch a sound that otherwise might have escaped me, but
which now riveted my eyes to the door of our room. Some one in
the silence, which followed the trampling on the stairs, had
cautiously laid a hand on the latch.
The light in the room was dim. Mirepoix had taken one of the
candles with him, and the other wanted snuffing. I could not see
whether the latch moved; whether or no it was rising. But
watching intently, I made out that the door was being opened--
slowly, noiselessly. I saw someone enter--a furtive gliding
For a moment I felt nervous--then I recognised the dark hooded
figure. It was only Madame d'O. Brave woman! She had evaded
the Vidame and slipped back to the rescue. Ha, ha! We would
defeat the Vidame yet! Things were going better!
But then something in her manner--as she stood holding the door
and peering into the room--something in her bearing startled and
frightened me. As she came forward her movements were so
stealthy that her footsteps made no sound. Her dark shadow,
moving ahead of her across the floor, was not more silent than
she. An undefined desire to make a noise, to give the alarm,
Half-way across the room she stopped to listen, and looked round,
startled herself, I think, by the silence. She could not see her
sister, whose figure was blurred by the outlines of the curtain;
and no doubt she was puzzled to think what had become of her.
The suspense which I felt, but did not understand, was so great
that at last I moved, and the bed creaked.
In a moment her face was turned our way, and she glided forwards,
her features still hidden by the hood of her cloak. She was
close to us now, bending over us. She raised her hand to her
head--to shade her eyes, as she looked more closely, I supposed,
and I was wondering whether she saw us--whether she took the
shapelessness in the shadow of the curtain for her sister, or
could not make it out--I was thinking how we could best apprise
her of our presence without alarming her--when Croisette dashed
my thoughts to the winds! Croisette, with a tremendous whoop and
a crash, bounded over me on to the floor!
She uttered a gasping cry--a cry of intense, awful fear. I have
the sound in my ears even now. With that she staggered back,
clutching the air. I heard the metallic clang and ring of
something falling on the floor. I heard an answering cry of
alarm from the window; and then Madame de Pavannes ran forward
and caught her in her arms.
It was strange to find the room lately so silent become at once
alive with whispering forms, as we came hastily to light. I
cursed Croisette for his folly, and was immeasurably angry with
him, but I had no time to waste words on him then. I hurried to
the door to guard it. I opened it a hand's breadth and listened.
All was quiet below; the house still. I took the key out of the
lock and put it in my pocket and went back. Marie and Croisette
were standing a little apart from Madame de Pavannes, who,
hanging over her sister, was by turns bathing her face and
explaining our presence.
In a very few minutes Madame d'O seemed to recover, and sat up.
The first shock of deadly terror had passed, but she was still
pale. She still trembled, and shrank from meeting our eyes,
though I saw her, when our attention was apparently directed
elsewhere, glance at one and another of us with a strange
intentness, a shuddering curiosity. No wonder, I thought. She
must have had a terrible fright--one that might have killed a
more timid woman!
"What on earth did you do that for!" I asked Croisette
presently, my anger certainly not decreasing the more I looked at
her beautiful face. "You might have killed her!"
In charity I supposed his nerves had failed him, for he could not
even now give me a straightforward answer. His only reply was,
"Let us get away! Let us get away from this horrible house!"
and this he kept repeating with a shudder as he moved restlessly
to and fro.
"With all my heart!" I answered, looking at him with some
contempt. "That is exactly what we are going to do!"
But all the same his words reminded me of something which in the
excitement of the scene I had momentarily forgotten, and that was
our duty. Pavannes must still be saved, though not for Kit;
rather to answer to us for his sins. But he must be saved! And
now that the road was open, every minute lost was reproach to us.
"Yes," I added roughly, my thoughts turned into a more rugged
channel, "you are right. This is no time for nursing. We must
be going. Madame de Pavannes," I went on, addressing myself to
her, "you know the way home from here--to your house!" "Oh,
yes," she cried.
"That is well," I answered. "Then we will start. Your sister is
sufficiently recovered now, I think. And we will not risk any
I did not tell her of her husband's danger, or that we suspected
him of wronging her, and being in fact the cause of her
detention. I wanted her services as a guide. That was the main
point, though I was glad to be able to put her in a place of
safety at the same time that we fulfilled our own mission.
She rose eagerly. "You are sure that we can get out?" she said.
"Sure," I replied with a brevity worthy of Bezers himself.
And I was right. We trooped down stairs, making as little noise
as possible; with the result that Mirepoix only took the alarm,
and came upon us when we were at the outer door, bungling with
the lock. Then I made short work of him, checking his scared
words of remonstrance by flashing my dagger before his eyes. I
induced him in the same fashion--he was fairly taken by surprise
--to undo the fastenings himself; and so, bidding him follow us
at his peril, we slipped out one by one. We softly closed the
door behind us. And lo! we were at last free--free and in the
streets of Paris, with the cool night air fanning our brows. A
church hard by tolled the hour of two; and the strokes were
echoed, before we had gone many steps along the ill-paved way, by
the solemn tones of the bell of Notre Dame.
We were free and in the streets, with a guide who knew the way.
If Bezers had not gone straight from us to his vengeance, we
might thwart him yet. I strode along quickly, Madame d'O by my
side the others a little way in front. Here and there an oil-
lamp, swinging from a pulley in the middle of the road, enabled
us to avoid some obstacle more foul than usual, or to leap over a
pool which had formed in the kennel. Even in my excitement, my
country-bred senses rebelled against the sights, and smells, the
noisome air and oppressive closeness of the streets.
The town was quiet, and very dark where the smoky lamps were not
hanging. Yet I wondered if it ever slept, for more than once we
had to stand aside to give passage to a party of men, hurrying
along with links and arms. Several times too, especially towards
the end of our walk, I was surprised by the flashing of bright
lights in a courtyard, the door of which stood half open to right
or left. Once I saw the glow of torches reflected ruddily in the
windows of a tall and splendid mansion, a little withdrawn from
the street. The source of the light was in the fore-court,
hidden from us by a low wall, but I caught the murmur of voices
and stir of many feet. Once a gate was stealthily opened and two
armed men looked out, the act and their manner of doing it,
reminding me on the instant of those who had peeped out to
inspect us some hours before in Bezers' house. And once, nay
twice, in the mouth of a narrow alley I discerned a knot of men
standing motionless in the gloom. There was an air of mystery
abroad, a feeling as of solemn stir and preparation going on
under cover of the darkness, which awed and unnerved me.
But I said nothing of this, and Madame d'O was equally silent.
Like most countrymen I was ready to believe in any exaggeration
of the city's late hours, the more as she made no remark. I
supposed--shaking off the momentary impression--that what I saw
was innocent and normal. Besides, I was thinking what I should
say to Pavannes when I saw him---in what terms I should warn him
of his peril, and cast his perfidy in his teeth. We had hurried
along in this way--and in absolute silence, save when some
obstacle or pitfall drew from us an exclamation--for about a
quarter of a mile, when my companion, turning into a slightly
wider street, slackened her speed, and indicated by a gesture
that we had arrived. A lamp hung over the porch, to which she
pointed, and showed the small side gate half open. We were close
behind the other three now. I saw Croisette stoop to enter and
as quickly fall back a pace. Why?
In a moment it flashed across my mind that we were too late that
the Vidame had been before us.
And yet how quiet it all was.
Then I breathed freely again. I saw that Croisette had only
stepped back to avoid some one who was coming out--the Coadjutor
in fact. The moment the entrance was clear, the lad shot in, and
the others after him, the priest taking no notice of them, nor
they of him.
I was for going in too, when I felt Madame d'O's hand tighten
suddenly on my arm, and then fall from it. Apprised of something
by this, I glanced at the priest's face, catching sight of it by
chance just as his eyes met hers. His face was white--nay it was
ugly with disappointment and rage, bitter snarling rage, that was
hardly human. He grasped her by the arm roughly and twisted her
round without ceremony, so as to draw her a few paces aside; yet
not so far that I could not hear what they said.
"He is not here!" he hissed. "Do you understand? He crossed
the river to the Faubourg St. Germain at nightfall--searching for
her. And he has not come back! He is on the other side of the
water, and midnight has struck this hour past!"
She stood silent for a moment as if she had received a blow--
silent and dismayed. Something serious had happened. I could
"He cannot recross the river now?" she said after a time. "The
"Shut!" he replied briefly. "The keys are at the Louvre."
"And the boats are on this side?"
"Every boat!" he answered, striking his one hand on the other
with violence. "Every boat! No one may cross until it is over."
"And the Faubourg St. Germain?" she said in a lower voice.
"There will be nothing done there. Nothing!"
CHAPTER VII. A YOUNG KNIGHT-ERRANT.
I would gladly have left the two together, and gone straight into
the house. I was eager now to discharge the errand on which I
had come so far; and apart from this I had no liking for the
priest or wish to overhear his talk. His anger, however, was so
patent, and the rudeness with which he treated Madame d'O so
pronounced that I felt I could not leave her with him unless she
should dismiss me. So I stood patiently enough--and awkwardly
enough too, I daresay--by the door while they talked on in
subdued tones. Nevertheless, I felt heartily glad when at
length, the discussion ending Madame came back to me. I offered
her my arm to help her over the wooden foot of the side gate.
She laid her hand on it, but she stood still.
"M. de Caylus," she said; and at that stopped. Naturally I
looked at her, and our eyes met. Hers brown and beautiful,
shining in the light of the lamp overhead looked into mine. Her
lips were half parted, and one fair tress of hair had escaped
from her hood. "M. de Caylus, will you do me a favour," she
resumed, softly, "a favour for which I shall always be grateful?"
I sighed. "Madame," I said earnestly, for I felt the solemnity
of the occasion, "I swear that in ten minutes, if the task I now
have in hand be finished I will devote my life to your service.
For the present--"
"Well, for the present? But it is the present I want, Master
"I must see M. de Pavannes! I am pledged to it," I ejaculated.
"To see M. de Pavannes?"
I was conscious that she was looking at me with eyes of doubt,
almost of suspicion.
"Why? Why?" she asked with evident surprise. "You have
restored--and nearly frightened me to death in doing it--his wife
to her home; what more do you want with him, most valiant knight-
"I must see him," I said firmly. I would have told her all and
been thankful, but the priest was within hearing--or barely out
of it; and I had seen too much pass between him and Bezers to be
willing to say anything before him.
"You must see M. de Pavannes?" she repeated, gazing at me.
"I must," I replied with decision.
"Then you shall. That is exactly what I am going to help you to
do," she exclaimed. "He is not here. That is what is the
matter. He went out at nightfall seeking news of his wife, and
crossed the river, the Coadjutor says, to the Faubourg St.
Germain. Now it is of the utmost importance that he should
return before morning--return here."
"But is he not here?" I said, finding all my calculations at
fault. "You are sure of it, Madame?"
"Quite sure," she answered rapidly. "Your brothers will have by
this time discovered the fact. Now, M. de Caylus, Pavannes must
be brought here before morning, not only for his wife's sake--
though she will be wild with anxiety--but also--"
"I know," I said, eagerly interrupting her, "for his own too!
There is a danger threatening him."
She turned swiftly, as if startled, and I turned, and we looked
at the priest. I thought we understood one another. "There is,"
she answered softly, "and I would save him from that danger; but
he will only be safe, as I happen to know, here! Here, you
understand! He must be brought here before daybreak, M. de
Caylus. He must! He must!" she exclaimed, her beautiful
features hardening with the earnestness of her feelings. "And
the Coadjutor cannot go. I cannot go. There is only one man who
can save him, and that is yourself. There is, above all, not a
moment to be lost."
My thoughts were in a whirl. Even as she spoke she began to walk
back the way we had come, her hand on my arm; and I, doubtful,
and in a confused way unwilling, went with her. I did not
clearly understand the position. I would have wished to go in
and confer with Marie and Croisette; but the juncture had
occurred so quickly, and it might be that time was as valuable as
she said, and--well, it was hard for me, a lad, to refuse her
anything when she looked at me with appeal in her eyes. I did
manage to stammer, "But I do not know Paris. I could not find
my way, I am afraid, and it is night, Madame."
She released my arm and stopped. "Night!" she cried, with a
scornful ring in her voice. "Night! I thought you were a man,
not a boy! You are afraid!"
"Afraid," I said hotly; "we Cayluses are never afraid."
"Then I can tell you the way, if that be your only difficulty.
We turn here. Now, come in with me a moment," she continued,
"and I will give you something you will need--and your
She had stopped at the door of a tall, narrow house, standing
between larger ones in a street which appeared to me to be more
airy and important than any I had yet seen. As she spoke, she
rang the bell once, twice, thrice. The silvery tinkle had
scarcely died away the third time before the door opened
silently; I saw no one, but she drew me into a narrow hall or
passage. A taper in an embossed holder was burning on a chest.
She took it up,and telling me to follow her led the way lightly
up the stairs, and into a room, half-parlour, half-bedroom-such a
room as I, had never seen before. It was richly hung from
ceiling to floor with blue silk, and lighted by the soft rays of
lamps shaded by Venetian globes of delicate hues. The scent of
cedar wood was in the air, and on the hearth in a velvet tray
were some tiny puppies. A dainty disorder reigned everywhere.
On one table a jewel-case stood open, on another lay some lace
garments, two or three masks and a fan. A gemmed riding-whip and
a silver-hilted poniard hung on the same peg. And, strangest of
all, huddled away behind the door, I espied a plain, black-
sheathed sword, and a man's gauntlets.
She did not wait a moment, but went at once to the jewel-case.
She took from it a gold ring--a heavy seal ring. She held this
out to me in the most matter-of-fact way--scarcely turning, in
fact. "Put it on your finger," she said hurriedly. "If you are
stopped by soldiers, or if they will not give you a boat to cross
the river, say boldly that you are on the king's service. Call
for the officer and show that ring. Play the man. Bid him stop
you at his peril!"
I hastily muttered my thanks, and she as hastily took something
from a drawer, and tore it into strips. Before I knew what she
was doing she was on her knees by me, fastening a white band of
linen round my left sleeve. Then she took my cap, and with the
same precipitation fixed a fragment of the stuff in it, in the
form of a rough cross.
"There," she said. "Now, listen, M. de Caylus. There is more
afoot to-night than you know of. Those badges will help you
across to St. Germain, but the moment you land tear them off:
Tear them off, remember. They will help you no longer. You will
come back by the same boat, and will not need them. If you are
seen to wear them as you return, they will command no respect,
but on the contrary will bring you--and perhaps me into trouble."
"I understand," I said, "but--"
"You must ask no questions," she retorted, waving one snowy
finger before my eyes. "My knight-errant must have faith in me,
as I have in him; or he would not be here at this time of night,
and alone with me. But remember this also. When you meet
Pavannes do not say you come from me. Keep that in your mind; I
will explain the reason afterwards. Say merely that his wife is
found, and is wild with anxiety about him. If you say anything
as to his danger he may refuse to come. Men are obstinate."
I nodded a smiling assent, thinking I understood. At the same
time I permitted myself in my own mind a little discretion.
Pavannes was not a fool, and the name of the Vidame--but,
however, I should see. I had more to say to him than she knew
of. Meanwhile she explained very carefully the three turnings I
had to take to reach the river, and the wharf where boats most
commonly lay, and the name of the house in which I should find M.
"He is at the Hotel de Bailli," she said. "And there, I think
that is all."
"No, not all," I said hardily. "There is one thing I have not
got. And that is a sword!"
She followed the direction of my eyes, started, and laughed--a
little oddly. But she fetched the weapon. "Take it, and do
not," she urged, "do not lose time. Do not mention me to
Pavannes. Do not let the white badges be seen as you return.
That is really all. And now good luck!" She gave me her hand to
kiss. "Good luck, my knight-errant, good luck--and come back to
She smiled divinely, as it seemed to me, as she said these last
words, and the same smile followed me down stairs: for she
leaned over the stair-head with one of the lamps in her hand, and
directed me how to draw the bolts. I took one backward glance as
I did so at the fair stooping figure above me, the shining eyes,
and tiny outstretched hand, and then darting into the gloom I
hurried on my way.
I was in a strange mood. A few minutes before I had been at
Pavannes' door, at the end of our journey; on the verge of
success. I had been within an ace, as I supposed at least, of
executing my errand. I had held the cup of success in my hand.
And it had slipped. Now the conflict had to be fought over
again; the danger to be faced. It would have been no more than
natural if I had felt the disappointment keenly: if I had almost
But it was otherwise--far otherwise. Never had my heart beat
higher or more proudly than as I now hurried through the streets,
avoiding such groups as were abroad in them, and intent only on
observing the proper turnings. Never in any moment of triumph in
after days, in love or war, did anything like the exhilaration,
the energy, the spirit, of those minutes come back to me. I had
a woman's badge in my cap--for the first time--the music of her
voice in my ears. I had a magic ring on my finger: a talisman
on my arm. My sword was at my side again. All round me lay a
misty city of adventures, of danger and romance, full of the
richest and most beautiful possibilities; a city of real
witchery, such as I had read of in stories, through which those
fairy gifts and my right hand should guide me safely. I did not
even regret my brothers, or our separation. I was the eldest.
It was fitting that the cream of the enterprise should be
reserved for me, Anne de Caylus. And to what might it not lead?
In fancy I saw myself already a duke and peer of France--already
I held the baton.
Yet while I exulted boyishly, I did not forget what I was about.
I kept my eyes open, and soon remarked that the number of people
passing to and fro in the dark streets had much increased within
the last half hour. The silence in which in groups or singly
these figures stole by me was very striking. I heard no
brawling, fighting or singing; yet if it were too late for these
things, why were so many people up and about? I began to count
presently, and found that at least half of those I met wore
badges in their hats and on their arms, similar to mine, and that
they all moved with a businesslike air, as if bound for some
I was not a fool, though I was young, and in some matters less
quick than Croisette. The hints which had been dropped by so
many had not been lost on me. "There is more afoot to-night than
you know of!" Madame d'O had said. And having eyes as well as
ears I fully believed it. Something was afoot. Something was
going to happen in Paris before morning. But what, I wondered.
Could it be that a rebellion was about to break out? If so I was
on the king's service, and all was well. I might even be going--
and only eighteen--to make history! Or was it only a brawl on a
great scale between two parties of nobles? I had heard of such
things happening in Paris. Then--well I did not see how I could
act in that case. I must be guided by events.
I did not imagine anything else which it could be. That is the
truth, though it may need explanation. I was accustomed only to
the milder religious differences, the more evenly balanced
parties of Quercy, where the peace between the Catholics and
Huguenots had been welcome to all save a very few. I could not
gauge therefore the fanaticism of the Parisian populace, and lost
count of the factor, which made possible that which was going to
happen--was going to happen in Paris before daylight as surely as
the sun was going to rise! I knew that the Huguenot nobles were
present in the city in great numbers, but it did not occur to me
that they could as a body be in danger. They were many and
powerful, and as was said, in favour with the king. They were
under the protection of the King of Navarre--France's brother-
in-law of a week, and the Prince of Conde; and though these
princes were young, Coligny the sagacious admiral was old, and
not much the worse I had learned for his wound. He at least was
high in royal favour, a trusted counsellor. Had not the king
visited him on his sick-bed and sat by him for an hour together?
Surely, I thought, if there were danger, these men would know of
it. And then the Huguenots' main enemy, Henri le Balafre, the
splendid Duke of Guise, "our great man," and " Lorraine," as the
crowd called him--he, it was rumoured, was in disgrace at court.
In a word these things, to say nothing of the peaceful and joyous
occasion which had brought the Huguenots to Paris, and which
seemed to put treachery out of the question, were more than
enough to prevent me forecasting the event.
If for a moment, indeed, as I hurried along towards the river,
anything like the truth occurred to me, I put it from me. I say
with pride I put it from me as a thing impossible. For God
forbid--one may speak out the truth these forty years back--God
forbid, say I, that all Frenchmen should bear the blood
guiltiness which came of other than French brains, though French
were the hands that did the work.
I was not greatly troubled by my forebodings therefore: and the
state of exaltation to which Madame d'O's confidence had raised
my spirits lasted until one of the narrow streets by the Louvre
brought me suddenly within sight of the river. Here faint
moonlight bursting momentarily through the clouds was shining on
the placid surface of the water. The fresh air played upon, and
cooled my temples. And this with the quiet scene so abruptly
presented to me, gave check to my thoughts, and somewhat sobered
At some distance to my left I could distinguish in the middle of
the river the pile of buildings which crowd the Ile de la Cite,
and could follow the nearer arm of the stream as it swept
landwards of these, closely hemmed in by houses, but unbroken as
yet by the arches of the Pont Neuf which I have lived to see
built. Not far from me on my right--indeed within a stone's
throw--the bulky mass of the Louvre rose dark and shapeless
against the sky. Only a narrow open space--the foreshore--
separated me from the water; beyond which I could see an
irregular line of buildings, that no doubt formed the Faubourg
I had been told that I should find stairs leading down to the
water, and boats moored at the foot of them, at this point.
Accordingly I walked quickly across the open space to a spot,
where I made out a couple of posts set up on the brink--
doubtless to mark the landing place.
I had not gone ten paces, however, out of the shadow, before I
chanced to look round, and discerned with an unpleasant eerie
feeling three figures detach themselves from it, and advance in a
row behind me, so as the better to cut off my retreat. I was not
to succeed in my enterprise too easily then. That was clear.
Still I thought it better to act as if I had not seen my
followers, and collecting myself, I walked as quickly as I could
down to the steps. The three were by that time close upon me--
within striking distance almost. I turned abruptly and
"Who are you, and what do you want?" I said, eyeing them warily,
my hand on my sword.
They did not answer, but separated more widely so as to form a
half-circle: and one of them whistled. On the instant a knot of
men started out of the line of houses, and came quickly across
the strip of light towards us.
The position seemed serious. If I could have run indeed--but I
glanced round, and found escape in that fashion impossible.
There were men crouching on the steps behind me, between me and
the river. I had fallen into a trap. Indeed, there was nothing
for it now but to do as Madame had bidden me, and play the man
boldly. I had the words still ringing in my ears. I had enough
of the excitement I had lately felt still bounding in my veins to
give nerve and daring. I folded my arms and drew myself up.
"Knaves!" I said, with as much quiet contempt as I could muster,
"you mistake me. You do not know whom you have to deal with.
Get me a boat, and let two of you row me across. Hinder me, and
your necks shall answer for it--or your backs!"
A laugh and an oath of derision formed the only response, and
before I could add more, the larger group arrived, and joined the
"Who is it, Pierre?" asked one of these in a matter-of-fact way,
which showed I had not fallen amongst mere thieves.
The speaker seemed to be the leader of the band. He had a
feather in his bonnet, and I saw a steel corslet gleam under his
cloak, when some one held up a lanthorn to examine me the better.
His trunk-hose were striped with black, white, and green--the
livery as I learned afterwards of Monsieur the King's brother,
the Duke of Anjou, afterwards Henry the Third; then a close
friend of the Duke of Guise, and later his murderer. The captain
spoke with a foreign accent, and his complexion was dark to
swarthiness. His eyes sparkled and flashed like black beads. It
was easy to see that he was an Italian.
"A gallant young cock enough," the soldier who had whistled
answered; "and not quite of the breed we expected." He held his
lanthorn towards me and pointed to the white badge on my sleeve.
"It strikes me we have caught a crow instead of a pigeon!"
"How comes this?" the Italian asked harshly, addressing me.
"Who are you? And why do you wish to cross the river at this
time of night, young sir?"
I acted on the inspiration of the moment. "Play the man boldly!"
Madame had said. I would: and I did with a vengeance. I sprang
forward and seizing the captain by the clasp of his cloak, shook
him violently, and flung him off with all my force, so that he
reeled. "Dog!" I exclaimed, advancing, as if I would seize him
again. "Learn how to speak to your betters! Am I to be stopped
by such sweepings as you? Hark ye, I am on the King's service!"
He fairly spluttered with rage. "More like the devil's!" he
exclaimed, pronouncing his words abominably, and fumbling vainly
for his weapon. "King's service or no service you do not insult
I could only vindicate my daring by greater daring, and I saw
this even as, death staring me in the face, my heart seemed to
stop. The man had his mouth open and his hand raised to give an
order which would certainly have sent Anne de Caylus from the
world, when I cried passionately--it was my last chance, and I
never wished to live more strongly than at that moment--I cried
passionately, "Andrea Pallavicini, if such be your name, look at
that! Look at that!" I repeated, shaking my open hand with the
ring on it before his face, "and then hinder me if you dare! To-
morrow if you have quarterings enough, I will see to your
quarrel! Now send me on my way, or your fate be on your own
head! Disobey--ay, do but hesitate--and I will call on these
very men of yours to cut you down!"
It was a bold throw, for I staked all on a talisman of which I
did not know the value! To me it was the turn of a die, for I
had had no leisure to look at the ring, and knew no more than a
babe whose it was. But the venture was as happy as desperate.
Andrea Pallavicini's expression--no pleasant one at the best of
times--changed on the instant. His face fell as he seized my
hand, and peered at the ring long and intently. Then he cast a
quick glance of suspicion at his men, of hatred at me. But I
cared nothing for his glance, or his hatred. I saw already that
he had made up his mind to obey the charm: and that for me was
everything. "If you had shown that to me a little earlier, young
sir, it would, maybe, have been better for both of us," he said,
a surly menace in his voice. And cursing his men for their
stupidity he ordered two of them to unmoor a boat.
Apparently the craft had been secured with more care than skill,
for to loosen it seemed to be a work of time. Meanwhile I stood
waiting in the midst of the group, anxious and yet exultant; an
object of curiosity, and yet curious myself. I heard the guards
whisper together, and caught such phrases as "It is the Duc
"No, it is not D'Aumale. It is nothing like him."
"Well, he has the Duke's ring, fool!"
"Then it is all right, God bless him!" This last was uttered
with extreme fervour.
I was conscious too of being the object of many respectful
glances; and had just bidden the men on the steps below me to be
quick, when I discovered with alarm three figures moving across
the open space towards us, and coming apparently from the same
point from which Pallavicini and his men had emerged.
In a moment I foresaw danger. "Now be quick there!" I cried
again. But scarcely had I spoken before I saw that it was
impossible to get afloat before these others came up, and I
prepared to stand my ground resolutely.
The first words, however, with which Pallavicini saluted the new-
comers scattered my fears. "Well, what the foul fiend do you
want?" he exclaimed rudely; and he rapped out half-a-dozen
CORPOS before they could answer him. "What have you brought him
here for, when I left him in the guard-house? Imbeciles!"
"Captain Pallavicini," interposed the midmost of the three,
speaking with patience--he was a man of about thirty, dressed
with some richness, though his clothes were now disordered as
though by a struggle--"I have induced these good men to bring me
"Then," cried the captain, brutally interrupting him, "you have
lost your labour, Monsieur."
"You do not know me," replied the prisoner with sternness--a
prisoner he seemed to be. "You do not understand that I am a
friend of the Prince of Conde, and that--"
He would have said more, but the Italian again cut him short. "A
fig for the Prince of Conde!" he cried; "I understand my duty.
You may as well take things easily. You cannot cross, and you
cannot go home, and you cannot have any explanation; except that
it is the King's will! Explanation?" he grumbled, in a lower
tone, "you will get it soon enough, I warrant! Before you want
"But there is a boat going to cross," said the other, controlling
his temper by an effort and speaking with dignity. "You told me
that by the King's order no one could cross; and you arrested me
because, having urgent need to visit St. Germain, I persisted.
Now what does this mean, Captain Pallavicini? Others are
crossing. I ask what this means?"
"Whatever you please, M. de Pavannes," the Italian retorted
contemptuously. "Explain it for yourself!"
I started as the name struck my ear, and at once cried out in
surprise, "M. de Pavannes!" Had I heard aright?
Apparently I had, for the prisoner turned to me with a bow.
"Yes, sir," he said with dignity, "I am M. de Pavannes. I have
not the honour of knowing you, but you seem to be a gentleman."
He cast a withering glance at the captain as he said this.
"Perhaps you will explain to me why this violence has been done
to me. If you can, I shall consider it a favour; if not, pardon
I did not answer him at once, for a good reason--that every
faculty I had was bent on a close scrutiny of the man himself.
He was fair, and of a ruddy complexion. His beard was cut in the
short pointed fashion of the court; and in these respects he bore
a kind of likeness, a curious likeness, to Louis de Pavannes.
But his figure was shorter and stouter. He was less martial in
bearing, with more of the air of a scholar than a soldier. "You
are related to M. Louis de Pavannes?" I said, my heart beginning
to beat with an odd excitement. I think I foresaw already what
"I am Louis de Pavannes," he replied with impatience.
I stared at him in silence: thinking--thinking--thinking. And
then I said slowly, "You have a cousin of the same name?"
"He fell prisoner to the Vicomte de Caylus at Moncontour?"
"He did," he answered curtly. "But what of that, sir?"
Again I did not answer--at once. The murder was out. I
remembered, in the dim fashion in which one remembers such things
after the event, that I had heard Louis de Pavannes, when we
first became acquainted with him, mention this cousin of the same
name; the head of a younger branch. But our Louis living in
Provence and the other in Normandy, the distance between their
homes, and the troubles of the times had loosened a tie which
their common religion might have strengthened. They had scarcely
ever seen one another. As Louis had spoken of his namesake but
once during his long stay with us, and I had not then foreseen
the connection to be formed between our families, it was no
wonder that in the course of months the chance word had passed
out of my head, and I had clean forgotten the subject of it.
Here however, he was before my eyes, and seeing him; I saw too
what the discovery meant. It meant a most joyful thing! a most
wonderful thing which I longed to tell Croisette and Marie. It
meant that our Louis de Pavannes--my cheek burned for my want of
faith in him--was no villain after all, but such a noble
gentleman as we had always till this day thought him! It meant
that he was no court gallant bent on breaking a country heart for
sport, but Kit's own true lover! And--and it meant more--it
meant that he was yet in danger, and still ignorant of the vow
that unchained fiend Bezers had taken to have his life! In
pursuing his namesake we had been led astray, how sadly I only
knew now! And had indeed lost most precious time.
"Your wife, M. de Pavannes"--I began in haste, seeing the
necessity of explaining matters with the utmost quickness. "Your
"Ah, my wife!" he cried interrupting me, with anxiety in his
tone. "What of her? You have seen her!"
"I have. She is safe at your house in the Rue de St. Merri."
"Thank Heaven for that!" he replied fervently. Before he could
say more Captain Andrea interrupted us. I could see that his
suspicions were aroused afresh. He pushed rudely between us, and
addressing me said, "Now, young sir, your boat is ready."
"My boat?" I answered, while I rapidly considered the situation.
Of course I did not want to cross the river now. No doubt
Pavannes---this Pavannes--could guide me to Louis' address. "My
"Yes, it is waiting," the Italian replied, his black eyes roving
from one to the other of us.
"Then let it wait!" I answered haughtily, speaking with an
assumption of anger. "Plague upon you for interrupting us! I
shall not cross the river now. This gentleman can give me the
information I want. I shall take him back with me."
"To whom? To those who sent me, sirrah!"
I thundered. "You do not seem to be much in the Duke's
confidence, captain," I went on; "now take a word of advice from
me! There is nothing: so easily cast off as an over-officious
servant! He goes too far--and he goes like an old glove! An old
glove," I repeated grimly, sneering in his face, "which saves the
hand and suffers itself. Beware of too much zeal, Captain
Pallavicini! It is a dangerous thing!"
He turned pale with anger at being thus treated by a beardless
boy. But he faltered all the same. What I said was unpleasant,
but the bravo knew it was true.
I saw the impression I had made, and I turned to the soldiers
"Bring here, my friends," I said, "M. de Pavannes' sword!"
One ran up to the guard house and brought it at once. They were
townsfolk, burgher guards or such like, and for some reason
betrayed so evident a respect for me, that I soberly believe they
would have turned on their temporary leader at my bidding.
Pavannes took his sword, and placed it under his arm. We both
bowed ceremoniously to Pallavicini, who scowled in response; and
slowly, for I was afraid to show any signs of haste, we walked
across the moonlit space to the bottom of the street by which I
had come. There the gloom swallowed us up at once. Pavannes
touched my sleeve and stopped in the darkness.
"I beg to be allowed to thank you for your aid," he said with
emotion, turning and facing me. "Whom have I the honour of
"M. Anne de Caylus, a friend of your cousin," I replied.
"Indeed?" he said "well, I thank you most heartily," and we
embraced with warmth.
"But I could have done little," I answered modestly, "on your
behalf, if it had not been for this ring."
"And the virtue of the ring lies in--"
"In--I am sure I cannot say in what!" I confessed. And then, in
the sympathy which the scene had naturally created between us, I
forgot one portion of my lady's commands and I added impulsively,
"All I know is that Madame d'O gave it me; and that it has done
all, and more than all she said it would."
"Who gave it to you?" he asked, grasping my arm so tightly as to
"Madame d'O," I repeated. It was too late to draw back now.
"That woman!" he ejaculated in a strange low whisper. "Is it
possible? That woman gave it you?"
I wandered what on earth he meant, surprise, scorn and dislike
were so blended in his tone. It even seemed to me that he drew
off from me somewhat. "Yes, M. de Pavannes," I replied, offended
and indignant, "It is so far possible that it is the truth; and
more, I think you would not so speak of this lady if you knew
all; and that it was through her your wife was to-day freed from
those who were detaining her, and taken safely home!"
"Ha!" he cried eagerly. "Then where has my wife been?"
"At the house of Mirepoix, the glover," I answered coldly, "in
the Rue Platriere. Do you know him? You do. Well, she was kept
there a prisoner, until we helped her to escape an hour or so
He did not seem to comprehend even then. I could see little of
his face, but there was doubt and wonder in his tone when he
spoke. "Mirepoix the glover," he murmured. "He is an honest man
enough, though a Catholic. She was kept there! Who kept her
"The Abbess of the Ursulines seems to have been at the bottom of
it," I explained, fretting with impatience. This wonder was
misplaced, I thought; and time was passing. "Madame d'O found
out where she was," I continued, "and took her home, and then
sent me to fetch you, hearing you had crossed the river. That is
the story in brief."
"That woman sent you to fetch me?" he repeated again.
"Yes," I answered angrily. "She did, M. de Pavannes."
"Then," he said slowly, and with an air of solemn conviction
which could not but impress me, "there is a trap laid for me!
She is the worst, the most wicked, the vilest of women! If she
sent you, this is a trap! And my wife has fallen into it
already! Heaven help her--and me--if it be so!"
CHAPTER VIII. THE PARISIAN MATINS.
There are some statements for which it is impossible to be
prepared; statements so strong and so startling that it is
impossible to answer them except by action--by a blow. And this
of M. de Pavannes was one of these. If there had been any one
present, I think I should have given him the lie and drawn upon
him. But alone with him at midnight in the shadow near the
bottom of the Rue des Fosses, with no witnesses, with every
reason to feel friendly towards him, what was I to do?
As a fact, I did nothing. I stood, silent and stupefied, waiting
to hear more. He did not keep me long.
"She is my wife's sister," he continued grimly. "But I have no
reason to shield her on that account! Shield her? Had you lived
at court only a month I might shield her all I could, M. de
Caylus, it would avail nothing. Not Madame de Sauves is better
known. And I would not if I could! I know well, though my wife
will not believe it, that there is nothing so near Madame d'O's
heart as to get rid of her sister and me--of both of us--that she
may succeed to Madeleine's inheritance! Oh, yes, I had good
grounds for being nervous yesterday, when my wife did not
return," he added excitedly.
"But there at least you wrong Madame d'O!" I cried, shocked and
horrified by an accusation, which seemed so much more dreadful in
the silence and gloom--and withal so much less preposterous than
it might have seemed in the daylight. "There you certainly wrong
her! For shame! M. de Pavannes."
He came a step nearer, and laying a hand on my sleeve peered into
my face. "Did you see a priest with her?" he asked slowly. "A
man called the Coadjutor--a down-looking dog?"
I said--with a shiver of dread, a sudden revulsion of feeling,
born of his manner--that I had. And I explained the part the
priest had taken.
"Then," Pavannes rejoined, "I am right There IS a trap laid for
me. The Abbess of the Ursulines! She abduct my wife? Why, she
is her dearest friend, believe me. It is impossible. She would
be more likely to save her from danger than to--umph! wait a
minute." I did: I waited, dreading what he might discover,
until he muttered, checking himself--"Can that be it? Can it be
that the Abbess did know of some danger threatening us, and would
have put Madeleine in a safe retreat? I wonder!"
And I wondered; and then--well, thoughts are like gunpowder. The
least spark will fire a train. His words were few, but they
formed spark enough to raise such a flare in my brain as for a
moment blinded me, and shook me so that I trembled. The shock
over, I was left face to face with a possibility of wickedness
such as I could never have suspected of myself. I remembered
Mirepoix's distress and the priest's eagerness. I re-called the
gruff warning Bezers--even Bezers, and there was something very
odd in Bezers giving a warning!--had given Madame de Pavannes
when he told her that she would be better where she was. I
thought of the wakefulness which I had marked in the streets, the
silent hurrying to and fro, the signs of coming strife, and
contrasted these with the quietude and seeming safety of
Mirepoix's house; and I hastily asked Pavannes at what time he
had been arrested.
"About an hour before midnight," he answered.
"Then you know nothing of what is happening?" I replied quickly.
" Why, even while we are loitering here--but listen!"
And with all speed, stammering indeed in my haste and anxiety, I
told him what I had noticed in the streets, and the hints I had
heard, and I showed him the badges with which Madame had
His manner when he had heard me out frightened me still more. He
drew me on in a kind of fury to a house in the windows of which
some lighted candles had appeared not a minute before.
"The ring!" he cried, "let me see the ring! Whose is it?"
He held up my hand to this chance light and we looked at the
ring. It was a heavy gold signet, with one curious
characteristic: it had two facets. On one of these was engraved
the letter "H," and above it a crown. On the other was an eagle
with outstretched wings.
Pavannes let my hand drop and leaned against the wall in sudden
despair. "It is the Duke of Guise's," he muttered. "It is the
eagle of Lorraine."
"Ha!" said I softly, seeing light. The Duke was the idol then,
as later, of the Parisian populace, and I understood now why the
citizen soldiers had shown me such respect. They had taken me
for the Duke's envoy and confidant.
But I saw no farther. Pavannes did, and murmured bitterly, "We
may say our prayers, we Huguenots. That is our death-warrant.
To-morrow night there will not be one left in Paris, lad. Guise
has his father's death to avenge, and these cursed Parisians will
do his bidding like the wolves they are! The Baron de Rosny
warned us of this, word for word. I would to Heaven we had taken
"Stay!" I cried--he was going too fast for me--"stay!" His
monstrous conception, though it marched some way with my own
suspicions, outran them far! I saw no sufficient grounds for it.
"The King--the king would not permit such a thing, M. de
Pavannes," I argued.
"Boy, you are blind!" he rejoined impatiently, for now he saw
all and I nothing. "Yonder was the Duke of Anjou's captain--
Monsieur's officer, the follower of France's brother, mark you!
And HE--he obeyed the Duke's ring! The Duke has a free hand to-
night, and he hates us. And the river. Why are we not to cross
the river? The King indeed! The King has undone us. He has
sold us to his brother and the Guises. VA CHASSER L'IDOLE" for
the second time I heard the quaint phrase, which I learned
afterwards was an anagram of the King's name, Charles de Valois,
used by the Protestants as a password--"VA CHASSER L'IDOLE has
betrayed us! I remember the very words he used to the Admiral,
'Now we have got you here we shall not let you go so easily!'
Oh, the traitor! The wretched traitor!"
He leaned against the wall overcome by the horror of the
conviction which had burst upon him, and unnerved by the
imminence of the peril. At all times he was an unready man, I
fancy, more fit, courage apart, for the college than the field;
and now he gave way to despair. Perhaps the thought of his wife
unmanned him. Perhaps the excitement through which he had
already gone tended to stupefy him, or the suddenness of the
At any rate, I was the first to gather my wits together, and my
earliest impulse was to tear into two parts a white handkerchief
I had in my pouch, and fasten one to his sleeve, the other in his
hat, in rough imitation of the badges I wore myself.
It will appear from this that I no longer trusted Madame d'O. I
was not convinced, it is true, of her conscious guilt, still I
did not trust her entirely. "Do not wear them on your return,"
she had said and that was odd; although I could not yet believe
that she was such a siren as Father Pierre had warned us of,
telling tales from old poets. Yet I doubted, shuddering as I did
so. Her companionship with that vile priest, her strange
eagerness to secure Pavannes' return, her mysterious directions
to me, her anxiety to take her sister home--home, where she would
be exposed to danger, as being in a known Huguenot's house--
these things pointed to but one conclusion; still that one was so
horrible that I would not, even while I doubted and distrusted
her, I would not, I could not accept it. I put it from me, and
refused to believe it, although during the rest of that night it
kept coming back to me and knocking for admission at my brain.
All this flashed through my mind while I was fixing on Pavannes'
badges. Not that I lost time about it, for from the moment I
grasped the position as he conceived it, every minute we had
wasted on explanations seemed to me an hour. I reproached myself
for having forgotten even for an instant that which had brought
us to town--the rescue of Kit's lover. We had small chance now
of reaching him in time, misled as we had been by this miserable
mistake in identity. If my companion's fears were well founded,
Louis would fall in the general massacre of the Huguenots,
probably before we could reach him. If ill-founded, still we had
small reason to hope. Bezers' vengeance would not wait. I knew
him too well to think it. A Guise might spare his foe, but the
Vidame--the Vidame never! We had warned Madame de Pavannes it
was true; but that abnormal exercise of benevolence could only, I
cynically thought, have the more exasperated the devil within
him, which now would be ravening like a dog disappointed of its
I glanced up at the line of sky visible between the tall houses,
and lo! the dawn was coming. It wanted scarcely half-an-hour of
daylight, though down in the dark streets about us the night
still reigned. Yes, the morning was coming, bright and hopeful,
and the city was quiet. There were no signs, no sounds of riot
or disorder. Surely, I thought, surely Pavannes must be
mistaken. Either the plot had never existed, that was most
likely, or it had been abandoned, or perhaps--Crack!
A pistol shot! Short, sharp, ominous it rang out on the instant,
a solitary sound in the night! It was somewhere near us, and I
stopped. I had been speaking to my companion at the moment.
"Where was it?" I cried, looking behind me.
"Close to us. Near the Louvre," he answered, listening intently.
"See! See! Ah, heavens!" he continued in a voice of despair,
"it was a signal!"
It was. One, two, three! Before I could count so far, lights
sprang into brightness in the windows of nine out of ten houses
in the short street where we stood, as if lighted by a single
hand. Before too I could count as many more, or ask him what
this meant, before indeed, we could speak or stir from the spot,
or think what we should do, with a hurried clang and clash, as if
brought into motion by furious frenzied hands, a great bell just
above our heads began to boom and whirr! It hurled its notes
into space, it suddenly filled all the silence. It dashed its
harsh sounds down upon the trembling city, till the air heaved,
and the houses about us rocked. It made in an instant a
pandemonium of the quiet night.
We turned and hurried instinctively from the place, crouching and
amazed, looking upwards with bent shoulders and scared faces.
"What is it? What is it?" I cried, half in resentment; half in
terror. It deafened me.
"The bell of St. Germain l'Auxerrois!" he shouted in answer.
"The Church of the Louvre. It is as I said. We are doomed!"
"Doomed? No!" I replied fiercely, for my courage seemed to rise
again on the wave of sound and excitement as if rebounding from
the momentary shock. "Never! We wear the devil's livery, and he
will look after his own. Draw, man, and let him that stops us
look to himself. You know the way. Lead on!" I cried savagely.
He caught the infection and drew his sword. So we started
boldly, and the result justified my confidence. We looked, no
doubt, as like murderers as any who were abroad that night.
Moving in this desperate guise we hastened up that street and
into another--still pursued by the din and clangour of the bell
--and then a short distance along a third. We were not stopped
or addressed by anyone, though numbers, increasing each moment as
door after door opened, and we drew nearer to the heart of the
commotion, were hurrying in the same direction, side by side with
us; and though in front, where now and again lights gleamed on a
mass of weapons, or on white eager faces, filling some alley from
wall to wall, we heard the roar of voices rising and falling like
the murmur of an angry sea.
All was blurr, hurry, confusion, tumult. Yet I remember, as we
pressed onwards with the stream and part of it, certain sharp
outlines. I caught here and there a glimpse of a pale scared
face at a window, a half-clad form at a door, of the big,
wondering eyes of a child held up to see us pass, of a Christ at
a corner ruddy in the smoky glare of a link, of a woman armed,
and in man's clothes, who walked some distance side by side with
us, and led off a ribald song. I retain a memory of these
things: of brief bursts of light and long intervals of darkness,
and always, as we tramped forwards, my hand on Pavannes' sleeve,
of an ever-growing tumult in front--an ever-rising flood of
At last we came to a standstill where a side street ran out of
ours. Into this the hurrying throng tried to wheel, and, unable
to do so, halted, and pressed about the head of the street, which
was already full to overflowing; and so sought with hungry eyes
for places whence they might look down it. Pavannes and I
struggled only to get through the crowd--to get on; but the
efforts of those behind partly aiding and partly thwarting our
own, presently forced us to a position whence we could not avoid
seeing what was afoot.
The street--this side street was ablaze with light. From end to
end every gable, every hatchment was glowing, every window was
flickering in the glare of torches. It was paved too with faces
--human faces, yet scarcely human--all looking one way, all
looking upward; and the noise, as from time to time this immense
crowd groaned or howled in unison, like a wild beast in its fury,
was so appalling, that I clutched Pavannes' arm and clung to him
in momentary terror. I do not wonder now that I quailed, though
sometimes I have heard that sound since. For there is nothing in
the world so dreadful as that brute beast we call the CANAILLE,
when the chain is off and its cowardly soul is roused.
Near our end of the street a group of horsemen rising island-like
from the sea of heads, sat motionless in their saddles about a
gateway. They were silent, taking no notice of the rioting
fiends shouting at their girths, but watching in grim quiet what
was passing within the gates. They were handsomely dressed,
although some wore corslets over their satin coats or lace above
buff jerkins. I could even at that distance see the jewels gleam
in the bonnet of one who seemed to be their leader. He was in
the centre of the band, a very young man, perhaps twenty or
twenty-one, of most splendid presence, sitting his horse
superbly. He wore a grey riding-coat, and was a head taller than
any of his companions. There was pride in the very air with
which his horse bore him.
I did not need to ask Pavannes who he was. I KNEW that he was
the Duke of Guise, and that the house before which he stood was
Coligny's. I knew what was being done there. And in the same
moment I sickened with horror and rage. I had a vision of grey
hairs and blood and fury scarcely human, And I rebelled. I
battled with the rabble about me. I forced my way through them
tooth and nail after Pavannes, intent only on escaping, only on
getting away from there. And so we neither halted nor looked
back until we were clear of the crowd and had left the blaze of
light and the work doing by it some way behind us.
We found ourselves then in the mouth of an obscure alley which my
companion whispered would bring us to his house; and here we
paused to take breath and look back. The sky was red behind us,
the air full of the clash and din of the tocsin, and the flood of
sounds which poured from every tower and steeple. From the
eastward came the rattle of drums and random shots, and shrieks
of "A BAS COLIGNY!" "A BAS LES HUGUENOTS!" Meanwhile the city
was rising as one man, pale at this dread awakening. From every
window men and women, frightened by the uproar, were craning
their necks, asking or answering questions or hurriedly calling
for and kindling tapers. But as yet the general populace seemed
to be taking no active part in the disorder.
Pavannes raised his hat an instant as we stood in the shadow of
the houses. "The noblest man in France is dead," he said, softly
and reverently. "God rest his soul! They have had their way
with him and killed him like a dog. He was an old man and they
did not spare him! A noble, and they have called in the CANAILLE
to tear him. But be sure, my friend"--and as the speaker's tone
changed and grew full and proud, his form seemed to swell with
it--"be sure the cruel shall not live out half their days! No.
He that takes the knife shall perish by the knife! And go to his
own place! I shall not see it, but you will!"
His words made no great impression on me then. My hardihood was
returning. I was throbbing with fierce excitement, and tingling
for the fight. But years afterwards, when the two who stood
highest in the group about Coligny's threshold died, the one at
thirty-eight, the other at thirty-five--when Henry of Guise and
Henry of Valois died within six months of one another by the
assassin's knife--I remembered Pavannes' augury. And remembering
it, I read the ways of Providence, and saw that the very audacity
of which Guise took advantage to entrap Coligny led him too in
his turn to trip smiling and bowing, a comfit box in his hand and
the kisses of his mistress damp on his lips, into a king's
closet--a king's closet at Blois! Led him to lift the curtain--
ah! to lift the curtain, what Frenchman does not know the tale?
--behind which stood the Admiral!
To return to our own fortunes; after a hurried glance we resumed
our way, and sped through the alley, holding a brief consultation
as we went. Pavannes' first hasty instinct to seek shelter at
home began to lose its force, and he to consider whether his
return would not endanger his wife. The mob might be expected to
spare her, he argued. Her death would not benefit any private
foes if he escaped. He was for keeping away therefore. But I
would not agree to this. The priest's crew of desperadoes--
assuming Pavannes' suspicions to be correct--would wait some
time, no doubt, to give the master of the house a chance to
return, but would certainly attack sooner or later out of greed,
if from no other motive. Then the lady's fate would at the best
be uncertain. I was anxious myself to rejoin my brothers, and
take all future chances, whether of saving our Louis, or escaping
ourselves, with them. United we should be four good swords, and
might at least protect Madame de Pavannes to a place of safety,
if no opportunity of succouring Louis should present itself. We
had too the Duke's ring, and this might be of service at a pinch.
"No," I urged, "let us get together. We two will slip in at the
front gate, and bolt and bar it, and then we will all escape in a
body at the back, while they are forcing the gateway."
"There is no door at the back," he answered, shaking his head.
"There are windows?"
"They are too strongly barred. We could not break out in the
time," he explained, with a groan.
I paused at that, crestfallen. But danger quickened my wits. In
a moment I had another plan, not so hopeful and more dangerous,
yet worth trying I thought, I told him of it, and he agreed to
it. As he nodded assent we emerged into a street, and I saw--for
the grey light of morning was beginning to penetrate between the
houses--that we were only a few yards from the gateway, and the
small door by which I had seen my brothers enter. Were they
still in the house? Were they safe? I had been away an hour at
Anxious as I was about them, I looked round me very keenly as we
flitted across the road, and knocked gently at the door. I
thought it so likely that we should be fallen upon here, that I
stood on my guard while we waited. But we were not molested.
The street, being at some distance from the centre of the
commotion, was still and empty, with no signs of life apparent
except the rows of heads poked through the windows--all
possessing eyes which watched us heedfully and in perfect
silence. Yes, the street was quite empty: except, ah! except,
for that lurking figure, which, even as I espied it, shot round a
distant angle of the wall, and was lost to sight.
"There!" I cried, reckless now who might hear me, "knock! knock
louder! never mind the noise. The alarm is given. A score of
people are watching us, and yonder spy has gone off to summon his
The truth was my anger was rising. I could bear no longer the
silent regards of all those eyes at the windows. I writhed under
them--cruel, pitiless eyes they were. I read in them a morbid
curiosity, a patient anticipation that drove me wild. Those men
and women gazing on us so stonily knew my companion's rank and
faith. They had watched him riding in and out daily, one of the
sights of their street, gay and gallant; and now with the same
eyes they were watching greedily for the butchers to come. The
very children took a fresh interest in him, as one doomed and
dying; and waited panting for the show to begin. So I read them.
"Knock!" I repeated angrily, losing all patience. Had I been
foolish in bringing him back to this part of the town where every
soul knew him? "Knock; we must get in, whether or no. They
cannot all have left the house!"
I kicked the door desperately, and my relief was great when it
opened. A servant with a pale face stood before me, his knees
visibly shaking. And behind him was Croisette.
I think we fell straightway into one another's arms.
"And Marie," I cried, "Marie?"
"Marie is within, and madame," he answered joyfully; "we are
together again and nothing matters, But oh, Anne, where have you
been? And what is the matter? Is it a great fire? Or is the
king dead? Or what is it?"
I told him. I hastily poured out some of the things which had
happened to me, and some which I feared were in store for others.
Naturally he was surprised and shocked by the latter, though his
fears had already been aroused. But his joy and relief, when he
heard the mystery of Louis de Pavannes' marriage explained, were
so great that they swallowed up all other feelings. He could not
say enough about it. He pictured Louis again and again as Kit's
lover, as our old friend, our companion; as true, staunch, brave
without fear, without reproach: and it was long before his eyes
ceased to sparkle, his tongue to run merrily, the colour to
mantle in his cheeks--long that is as time is counted by minutes.
But presently the remembrance of Louis' danger and our own
position returned more vividly. Our plan for rescuing him had
"No! no!" cried Croisette, stoutly. He would not hear of it.
He would not have it at any price. "No, we will not give up
hope! We will go shoulder to shoulder and find him. Louis is as
brave as a lion and as quick as a weasel. We will find him in
time yet. We will go when--I mean as soon as--"
He faltered, and paused. His sudden silence as he looked round
the empty forecourt in which we stood was eloquent. The cold
light, faint and uncertain yet, was stealing into the court,
disclosing a row of stables on either side, and a tiny porter's
hutch by the gates, and fronting us a noble house of four storys,
tall, grey, grim-looking.
I assented; gloomily however. "Yes," I said, "we will go when--"
And I too stopped. The same thought was in my mind. How could
we leave these people? How could we leave madame in her danger
and distress? How could we return her kindness by desertion? We
could not. No, not for Kit's sake. Because after all Louis, our
Louis, was a man, and must take his chance. He must take his
chance. But I groaned.
So that was settled. I had already explained our plan to
Croisette: and now as we waited he began to tell me a story, a
long, confused story about Madame d'O. I thought he was talking
for the sake of talking--to keep up our spirits--and I did not
attend much to him; so that he had not reached the gist of it, or
at least I had not grasped it, when a noise without stayed his
tongue. It was the tramp of footsteps, apparently of a large
party in the street. It forced him to break off, and promptly
drove us all to our posts.
But before we separated a slight figure, hardly noticeable in
that dim, uncertain light, passed me quickly, laying for an
instant a soft hand in mine as I stood waiting by the gates. I
have said I scarcely saw the figure, though I did see the kind
timid eyes, and the pale cheeks under the hood; but I bent over
the hand and kissed it, and felt, truth to tell, no more regret
nor doubt where our duty lay. But stood, waiting patiently.
CHAPTER IX. THE HEAD OF ERASMUS.
Waiting, and waiting alone! The gates were almost down now. The
gang of ruffians without, reinforced each moment by volunteers
eager for plunder, rained blows unceasingly on hinge and socket;
and still hotter and faster through a dozen rifts in the timbers
came the fire of their threats and curses. Many grew tired, but
others replaced them. Tools broke, but they brought more and
worked with savage energy. They had shown at first a measure of
prudence; looking to be fired on, and to be resisted by men,
surprised, indeed, but desperate; and the bolder of them only had
advanced. But now they pressed round unchecked, meeting no
resistance. They would scarcely stand back to let the sledges
have swing; but hallooed and ran in on the creaking beams and
beat them with their fists, whenever the gates swayed under a
One stout iron bar still held its place. And this I watched as
if fascinated. I was alone in the empty courtyard, standing a
little aside, sheltered by one of the stone pillars from which
the gates hung. Behind me the door of the house stood ajar.
Candles, which the daylight rendered garish, still burned in the
rooms on the first floor, of which the tall narrow windows were
open. On the wide stone sill of one of these stood Croisette, a
boyish figure, looking silently down at me, his hand on the
latticed shutter. He looked pale, and I nodded and smiled at
him. I felt rather anger than fear myself; remembering, as the
fiendish cries half-deafened me, old tales of the Jacquerie and
its doings, and how we had trodden it out.
Suddenly the din and tumult flashed to a louder note; as when
hounds on the scent give tongue at sight. I turned quickly from
the house, recalled to a sense of the position and peril. The
iron bar was yielding to the pressure. Slowly the left wing of
the gate was sinking inwards. Through the widening chasm I
caught a glimpse of wild, grimy faces and bloodshot eyes, and
heard above the noise a sharp cry from Croisette--a cry of
terror. Then I turned and ran, with a defiant gesture and an
answering yell, right across the forecourt and up the steps to
I ran the faster for the sharp report of a pistol behind me, and
the whirr of a ball past my ear. But I was not scared by it:
and as my feet alighted with a bound on the topmost step, I
glanced back. The dogs were halfway across the court. I made a
bungling attempt to shut and lock the great door--failed in this;
and heard behind me a roar of coarse triumph. I waited for no
more. I darted up the oak staircase four steps at a time, and
rushed into the great drawing-room on my left, banging the door
The once splendid room was in a state of strange disorder. Some
of the rich tapestry had been hastily torn down. One window was
closed and shuttered; no doubt Croisette had done it. The other
two were open--as if there had not been time to close them--and
the cold light which they admitted contrasted in ghastly fashion
with the yellow rays of candles still burning in the sconces.
The furniture had been huddled aside or piled into a barricade, a
CHEVAUX DE FRISE of chairs and tables stretching across the width
of the room, its interstices stuffed with, and its weakness
partly screened by, the torn-down hangings. Behind this frail
defence their backs to a door which seemed to lead to an inner
room, stood Marie and Croisette, pale and defiant. The former
had a long pike; the latter levelled a heavy, bell-mouthed
arquebuse across the back of a chair, and blew up his match as I
entered. Both had in addition procured swords. I darted like a
rabbit through a little tunnel left on purpose for me in the
rampart, and took my stand by them.
"Is all right?" ejaculated Croisette turning to me nervously.
"All right, I think," I answered. I was breathless.
"You are not hurt?"
I had just time then to draw my sword before the assailants
streamed into the room, a dozen ruffians, reeking and tattered,
with flushed faces and greedy, staring eyes. Once inside,
however, suddenly--so suddenly that an idle spectator might have
found the change ludicrous--they came to a stop. Their wild
cries ceased, and tumbling over one another with curses and oaths
they halted, surveying us in muddled surprise; seeing what was
before them, and not liking it. Their leader appeared to be a
tall butcher with a pole-axe on his half-naked shoulder; but
there were among them two or three soldiers in the royal livery
and carrying pikes. They had looked for victims only, having met
with no resistance at the gate, and the foremost recoiled now on
finding themselves confronted by the muzzle of the arquebuse and
the lighted match.
I seized the occasion. I knew, indeed, that the pause presented
our only chance, and I sprang on a chair and waved my hand for
silence. The instinct of obedience for the moment asserted
itself; there was a stillness in the room.
"Beware!" I cried loudly--as loudly and confidently as I could,
considering that there was a quaver at my heart as I looked on
those savage faces, which met and yet avoided my eye. "Beware of
what you do! We are Catholics one and all like yourselves, and
good sons of the Church. Ay, and good subjects too! VIVE LE
ROI, gentlemen! God save the King! I say." And I struck the
barricade with my sword until the metal rang again. "God save
"Cry VIVE LA MESSE!" shouted one.
"Certainly, gentlemen!" I replied, with politeness. "With all
my heart. VIVE LA MESSE! VIVE LA MESSE!"
This took the butcher, who luckily was still sober, utterly
aback. He had never thought of this. He stared at us as if the
ox he had been about to fell had opened its mouth and spoken, and
grievously at a loss, he looked for help to his companions.
Later in the day, some Catholics were killed by the mob. But
their deaths as far as could be learned afterwards were due to
private feuds. Save in such cases--and they were few--the cry of
VIVE LA MESSE! always obtained at least a respite: more easily
of course in the earlier hours of the morning when the mob were
scarce at ease in their liberty to kill, while killing still
seemed murder, and men were not yet drunk with bloodshed.
I read the hesitation of the gang in their faces: and when one
asked roughly who we were, I replied with greater boldness, "I am
M. Anne de Caylus, nephew to the Vicomte de Caylus, Governor,
under the King, of Bayonne and the Landes!" This I said with
what majesty I could. "And these" I continued--"are my brothers.
You will harm us at your peril, gentlemen. The Vicomte, believe
me, will avenge every hair of our heads."
I can shut my eyes now and see the stupid wonder, the baulked
ferocity of those gaping faces. Dull and savage as the men were
they were impressed; they saw reason indeed, and all seemed going
well for us when some one in the rear shouted, "Cursed whelps!
Throw them over!"
I looked swiftly in the direction whence the voice came--the
darkest corner of the room the corner by the shuttered window. I
thought I made out a slender figure, cloaked and masked--a
woman's it might be but I could not be certain and beside it a
couple of sturdy fellows, who kept apart from the herd and well
behind their fugleman.
The speaker's courage arose no doubt from his position at the
back of the room, for the foremost of the assailants seemed less
determined. We were only three, and we must have gone down,
barricade and all, before a rush. But three are three. And an
arquebuse--Croisette's match burned splendidly--well loaded with
slugs is an ugly weapon at five paces, and makes nasty wounds,
besides scattering its charge famously. This, a good many of
them and the leaders in particular, seemed to recognise. We
might certainly take two or three lives: and life is valuable to
its owner when plunder is afoot. Besides most of them had common
sense enough to remember that there were scores of Huguenots
--genuine heretics--to be robbed for the killing, so why go out
of the way, they reasoned, to cut a Catholic throat, and perhaps
get into trouble. Why risk Montfaucon for a whim? and offend a
man of influence like the Vicomte de Caylus, for nothing!
Unfortunately at this crisis their original design was recalled
to their minds by the same voice behind, crying out, "Pavannes!
Where is Pavannes?"
"Ay!" shouted the butcher, grasping the idea, and at the same
time spitting on his hands and taking a fresh grip of the axe,
"Show us the heretic dog, and go! Let us at him."
"M. de Pavannes," I said coolly--but I could not take my eyes off
the shining blade of that man's axe, it was so very broad and
sharp--"is not here!"
"That is a lie! He is in that room behind you!" the prudent
gentleman in the background called out. "Give him up!"
"Ay, give him up!" echoed the man of the pole-axe almost good
humouredly, "or it will be the worse for you. Let us have at him
and get you gone!"
This with an air of much reason, while a growl as of a chained
beast ran through the crowd, mingled with cries of "A MORT LES
HUGUENOTS! VIVE LORRAINE!"--cries which seemed to show that all
did not approve of the indulgence offered us.
"Beware, gentlemen, beware," I urged, "I swear he is not here! I
swear it, do you hear?"
A howl of impatience and then a sudden movement of the crowd as
though the rush were coming warned me to temporize no longer.
"Stay! Stay!" I added hastily. "One minute! Hear me! You are
too many for us. Will you swear to let us go safe and untouched,
if we give you passage?"
A dozen voices shrieked assent. But I looked at the butcher
only. He seemed to be an honest man, out of his profession.
"Ay, I swear it!" he cried with a nod.
"By the Mass?"
"By the Mass."
I twitched Croisette's sleeve, and he tore the fuse from his
weapon, and flung the gun--too heavy to be of use to us longer--
to the ground. It was done in a moment. While the mob swept
over the barricade, and smashed the rich furniture of it in
wanton malice, we filed aside, and nimbly slipped under it one by
one. Then we hurried in single file to the end of the room, no
one taking much notice of us. All were pressing on, intent on
their prey. We gained the door as the butcher struck his first
blow on that which we had guarded--on that which we had given up.
We sprang down the stairs with bounding hearts, heard as we
reached the outer door the roar of many voices, but stayed not to
look behind--paused indeed for nothing. Fear, to speak candidly,
lent us wings. In three seconds we had leapt the prostrate
gates, and were in the street. A cripple, two or three dogs, a
knot of women looking timidly yet curiously in, a horse tethered
to the staple--we saw nothing else. No one stayed us. No one
raised a hand, and in another minute we had turned a corner, and
were out of sight of the house.
"They will take a gentleman's word another time," I said with a
quiet smile as I put up my sword.
"I would like to see her face at this moment,' Croisette replied.
"You saw Madame d'O?"
I shook my head, not answering. I was not sure, and I had a
queer, sickening dread of the subject. If I had seen her, I had
seen oh! it was too horrible, too unnatural! Her own sister!
Her own brother in-law!
I hastened to change the subject. "The Pavannes," I made shift
to say, "must have had five minutes' start."
"More," Croisette answered, "if Madame and he got away at once.
If all has gone well with them, and they have not been stopped in
the streets they should be at Mirepoix's by now. They seemed to
be pretty sure that he would take them in."
"Ah!" I sighed. "What fools we were to bring madame from that
place! If we had not meddled with her affairs we might have
reached Louis long ago our Louis, I mean."
"True," Croisette answered softly, "but remember that then we
should not have saved the other Louis as I trust we have. He
would still be in Pallavicini's hands. Come, Anne, let us think
it is all for the best," he added, his face shining with a steady
courage that shamed me. "To the rescue! Heaven will help us to
be in time yet!"
"Ay, to the rescue!" I replied, catching his spirit. "First to
the right, I think, second to the left, first on the right again.
That was the direction given us, was it not? The house opposite
a book-shop with the sign of the Head of Erasmus. Forward, boys!
We may do it yet."
But before I pursue our fortunes farther let me explain. The
room we had guarded so jealously was empty! The plan had been
mine and I was proud of it. For once Croisette had fallen into
his rightful place. My flight from the gate, the vain attempt to
close the house, the barricade before the inner door--these were
all designed to draw the assailants to one spot. Pavannes and
his wife--the latter hastily disguised as a boy--had hidden
behind the door of the hutch by the gates--the porter's hutch,
and had slipped out and fled in the first confusion of the
Even the servants, as we learned afterwards, who had hidden
themselves in the lower parts of the house got away in the same
manner, though some of them--they were but few in all were
stopped as Huguenots and killed before the day ended. I had the
more reason to hope that Pavannes and his wife would get clear
off, inasmuch as I had given the Duke's ring to him, thinking it
might serve him in a strait, and believing that we should have
little to fear ourselves once clear of his house; unless we
should meet the Vidame indeed.
We did not meet him as it turned out; but before we had traversed
a quarter of the distance we had to go we found that fears based
on reason were not the only terrors we had to resist. Pavannes'
house, where we had hitherto been, stood at some distance from
the centre of the blood-storm which was enwrapping unhappy Paris
that morning. It was several hundred paces from the Rue de
Bethisy where the Admiral lived, and what with this comparative
remoteness and the excitement of our own little drama, we had not
attended much to the fury of the bells, the shots and cries and
uproar which proclaimed the state of the city. We had not
pictured the scenes which were happening so near. Now in the
streets the truth broke upon us, and drove the blood from our
cheeks. A hundred yards, the turning of a corner, sufficed. We
who but yesterday left the country, who only a week before were
boys, careless as other boys, not recking of death at all, were
plunged now into the midst of horrors I cannot describe. And the
awful contrast between the sky above and the things about us!
Even now the lark was singing not far from us; the sunshine was
striking the topmost storeys of the houses; the fleecy clouds
were passing overhead, the freshness of a summer morning was--
Ah! where was it? Not here in the narrow lanes surely, that
echoed and re-echoed with shrieks and curses and frantic prayers:
in which bands of furious men rushed up and down, and where
archers of the guard and the more cruel rabble were breaking in
doors and windows, and hurrying with bloody weapons from house to
house, seeking, pursuing, and at last killing in some horrid
corner, some place of darkness--killing with blow on blow dealt
on writhing bodies! Not here, surely, where each minute a child,
a woman died silently, a man snarling like a wolf--happy if he
had snatched his weapon and got his back to the wall: where foul
corpses dammed the very blood that ran down the kennel, and
children--little children--played with them!
I was at Cahors in 1580 in the great street fight; and there
women were killed, I was with Chatillon nine years later, when he
rode through the Faubourgs of Paris, with this very day and his
father Coligny in his mind, and gave no quarter. I was at
Courtas and Ivry, and more than once have seen prisoners led out
to be piked in batches--ay, and by hundreds! But war is war, and
these were its victims, dying for the most part under God's
heaven with arms in their hands: not men and women fresh roused
from their sleep. I felt on those occasions no such horror, I
have never felt such burning pity and indignation as on the
morning I am describing, that long-past summer morning when I
first saw the sun shining on the streets of Paris. Croisette
clung to me, sick and white, shutting his eyes and ears, and
letting me guide him as I would. Marie strode along on the other
side of him, his lips closed, his eyes sinister. Once a soldier
of the guard whose blood-stained hands betrayed the work he had
done, came reeling--he was drunk, as were many of the butchers--
across our path, and I gave way a little. Marie did not, but
walked stolidly on as if he did not see him, as if the way were
clear, and there were no ugly thing in God's image blocking it.
Only his hand went as if by accident to the haft of his dagger.
The archer--fortunately for himself and for us too--reeled clear
of us. We escaped that danger. But to see women killed and pass
by--it was horrible! So horrible that if in those moments I had
had the wishing-cap, I would have asked but for five thousand
riders, and leave to charge with them through the streets of
Paris! I would have had the days of the Jacquerie back again,
and my men-at-arms behind me!
For ourselves, though the orgy was at its height when we passed,
we were not molested. We were stopped indeed three times--once
in each of the streets we traversed--by different bands of
murderers. But as we wore the same badges as themselves, and
cried "VIVE LA MESSE!" and gave our names, we were allowed to
proceed. I can give no idea of the confusion and uproar, and I
scarcely believe myself now that we saw some of the things we
witnessed. Once a man gaily dressed, and splendidly mounted,
dashed past us, waving his naked sword and crying in a frenzied
way "Bleed them! Bleed them! Bleed in May, as good to-day!"
and never ceased crying out the same words until he passed beyond
our hearing. Once we came upon the bodies of a father and two
sons, which lay piled together in the kennel; partly stripped
already. The youngest boy could not have been more than thirteen,
I mention this group, not as surpassing others in pathos, but
because it is well known now that this boy, Jacques Nompar de
Caumont, was not dead, but lives to-day, my friend the Marshal de
This reminds me too of the single act of kindness we were able to
perform. We found ourselves suddenly, on turning a corner, amid
a gang of seven or eight soldiers, who had stopped and surrounded
a handsome boy, apparently about fourteen. He wore a scholar's
gown, and had some books under his arm, to which he clung firmly
--though only perhaps by instinct--notwithstanding the furious
air of the men who were threatening him with death. They were
loudly demanding his name, as we paused opposite them. He either
could not or would not give it, but said several times in his
fright that he was going to the College of Burgundy. Was he a
Catholic? they cried. He was silent. With an oath the man who
had hold of his collar lifted up his pike, and naturally the lad
raised the books to guard his face. A cry broke from Croisette.
We rushed forward to stay the blow.
"See! see!" he exclaimed loudly, his voice arresting the man's
arm in the very act of falling. "He has a Mass Book! He has a
Mass Book! He is not a heretic! He is a Catholic!"
The fellow lowered his weapon, and sullenly snatched the books.
He looked at them stupidly with bloodshot wandering eyes, the red
cross on the vellum bindings, the only thing he understood. But
it was enough for him; he bid the boy begone, and released him
with a cuff and an oath.
Croisette was not satisfied with this, though I did not
understand his reason; only I saw him exchange a glance with the
lad. "Come, come!" he said lightly. "Give him his books! You
do not want them!"
But on that the men turned savagely upon us. They did not thank
us for the part we had already taken; and this they thought was
going too far. They were half drunk and quarrelsome, and being
two to one, and two over, began to flourish their weapons in our
faces. Mischief would certainly have been done, and very
quickly, had not an unexpected ally appeared on our side.
"Put up! put up!" this gentleman cried in a boisterous voice--
he was already in our midst. "What is all this about? What is
the use of fighting amongst ourselves, when there is many a bonny
throat to cut, and heaven to be gained by it! put up, I say!"
"Who are you?" they roared in chorus.
"The Duke of Guise!" he answered coolly. "Let the gentlemen go,
and be hanged to you, you rascals!"
The man's bearing was a stronger argument than his words, for I
am sure that a stouter or more reckless blade never swaggered in
church or street. I knew him instantly, and even the crew of
butchers seemed to see in him their master. They hung back a few
curses at him, but having nothing to gain they yielded. They
threw down the books with contempt--showing thereby their sense
of true religion; and trooped off roaring, "TUES! TUES! Aux
Huguenots!" at the top of their voices.
The newcomer thus left with us was Bure--Blaise Bure--the same
who only yesterday, though it seemed months and months back, had
lured us into Bezers' power. Since that moment we had not seen
him. Now he had wiped off part of the debt, and we looked at
him, uncertain whether to reproach him or no. He, however, was
not one whit abashed, but returned our regards with a not
"I bear no malice, young gentlemen," he said impudently.
"No, I should think not," I answered.
"And besides, we are quits now," the knave continued.
"You are very kind," I said.
"To be sure. You did me a good turn once," he answered, much to
my surprise. He seemed to be in earnest now. "You do not
remember it, young gentleman, but it was you and your brother
here"--he pointed to Croisette--"did it! And by the Pope and the
King of Spain I have not forgotten it!"
"I have," I said.
"What! You have forgotten spitting that fellow at Caylus ten
days ago? CA! SA! You remember. And very cleanly done, too!
A pretty stroke! Well, M. Anne, that was a clever fellow, a very
clever fellow. He thought so and I thought so, and what was more
to the purpose the most noble Raoul de Bezers thought so too.
He leered at me and I did understand. I understood that
unwittingly I had rid Blaise Bure of a rival. This accounted for
the respectful, almost the kindly way in which he had--well,
"That is all," he said. "If you want as much done for you, let
me know. For the present, gentlemen, farewell!"
He cocked his hat fiercely, and went off at speed the way we had
ourselves been going; humming as he went,
"Ce petit homme tant joli,
Qui toujours cause et toujours rit,
Qui toujours baise sa mignonne
Dieu gard' de mal ce petit homme!"
His reckless song came back to us on the summer breeze. We
watched him make a playful pass at a corpse which some one had
propped in ghastly fashion against a door--and miss it--and go on
whistling the same air--and then a corner hid him from view.
We lingered only a moment ourselves; merely to speak to the boy
we had befriended.
"Show the books if anyone challenges you," said Croisette to him
shrewdly. Croisette was so much of a boy himself, with his fair
hair like a halo about his white, excited face, that the picture
of the two, one advising the other, seemed to me a strangely
pretty one. "Show the books and point to the cross on them. And
Heaven send you safe to your college."
"I would like to know your name, if you please," said the boy.
His coolness and dignity struck me as admirable under the
circumstances. "I am Maximilian de Bethune, son of the Baron de
"Then," said Croisette briskly, "one good turn has deserved
another. Your father, yesterday, at Etampes--no it was the day
before, but we have not been in bed--warned us--"
He broke off suddenly; then cried, "Run! run!"
The boy needed no second warning indeed. He was off like the
wind down the street, for we had seen and so had he, the stealthy
approach of two or three prowling rascals on the look out for a
victim. They caught sight of him and were strongly inclined to
follow him; but we were their match in numbers. The street was
otherwise empty at the moment: and we showed them three
excellent reasons why they should give him a clear start.
His after adventures are well-known: for he, too, lives. He was
stopped twice after he left us. In each case he escaped by
showing his book of offices. On reaching the college the porter
refused to admit him, and he remained for some time in the open
street exposed to constant danger of losing his life, and knowing
not what to do. At length he induced the gatekeeper, by the
present of some small pieces of money, to call the principal of
the college, and this man humanely concealed him for three days.
The massacre being then at an end, two armed men in his father's
pay sought him out and restored him to his friends. So near was
France to losing her greatest minister, the Duke de Sully.
To return to ourselves. The lad out of sight, we instantly
resumed our purpose, and trying to shut our eyes and ears to the
cruelty, and ribaldry, and uproar through which we had still to
pass, we counted our turnings with a desperate exactness, intent
only on one thing--to reach Louis de Pavannes, to reach the house
opposite to the Head of Erasmus, as quickly as we could. We
presently entered a long, narrow street. At the end of it the
river was visible gleaming and sparkling in the sunlight. The
street was quiet; quiet and empty. There was no living soul to
be seen from end to end of it, only a prowling dog. The noise of
the tumult raging in other parts was softened here by distance
and the intervening houses. We seemed to be able to breathe more
"This should be our street," said Croisette.
I nodded. At the same moment I espied, half-way down it, the
sign we needed and pointed to it, But ah! were we in time? Or
too late? That was the question. By a single impulse we broke
into a run, and shot down the roadway at speed. A few yards
short of the Head of Erasmus we came, one by one, Croisette
first, to a full stop. A full stop!
The house opposite the bookseller's was sacked! gutted from top
to bottom. It was a tall house, immediately fronting the street,
and every window in it was broken. The door hung forlornly on
one hinge, glaring cracks in its surface showing where the axe
had splintered it. Fragments of glass and ware, hung out and
shattered in sheer wantonness, strewed the steps: and down one
corner of the latter a dark red stream trickled--to curdle by and
by in the gutter. Whence came the stream? Alas! there was
something more to be seen yet, something our eyes instinctively
sought last of all. The body of a man.
It lay on the threshold, the head hanging back, the wide glazed
eyes looking up to the summer sky whence the sweltering heat
would soon pour down upon it. We looked shuddering at the face.
It was that of a servant, a valet who had been with Louis at
Caylus. We recognised him at once for we had known and liked
him. He had carried our guns on the hills a dozen times, and
told us stories of the war. The blood crawled slowly from him.
He was dead.
Croisette began to shake all over. He clutched one of the
pillars, which bore up the porch, and pressed his face against
its cold surface, hiding his eyes from the sight. The worst had
come. In our hearts I think we had always fancied some accident
would save our friend, some stranger warn him.
"Oh, poor, poor Kit!" Croisette cried, bursting suddenly into
violent sobs. "Oh, Kit! Kit!"
CHAPTER X. HAU, HAU, HUGUENOTS!
His late Majesty, Henry the Fourth, I remember--than whom no
braver man wore sword, who loved danger indeed for its own sake,
and courted it as a mistress--could never sleep on the night
before an action. I have heard him say himself that it was so
before the fight at Arques. Croisette partook of this nature
too, being high-strung and apt to be easily over-wrought, but
never until the necessity for exertion had passed away: while
Marie and I, though not a whit stouter at a pinch, were slower to
feel and less easy to move--more Germanic in fact.
I name this here partly lest it should be thought after what I
have just told of Croisette that there was anything of the woman
about him--save the tenderness; and partly to show that we acted
at this crisis each after his manner. 'While Croisette turned
pale and trembled, and hid his eyes, I stood dazed, looking from
the desolate house to the face stiffening in the sunshine, and
back again; wondering, though I had seen scores of dead faces
since daybreak, and a plenitude of suffering in all dreadful
shapes, how Providence could let this happen to us. To us! In
his instincts man is as selfish as any animal that lives.
I saw nothing indeed of the dead face and dead house after the
first convincing glance. I saw instead with hot, hot eyes the
old castle at home, the green fields about the brook, and the
grey hills rising from them; and the terrace, and Kit coming to
meet us, Kit with white face and parted lips and avid eyes that
questioned us! And we with no comfort to give her, no lover to
bring back to her!
A faint noise behind as of a sign creaking in the wind, roused me
from this most painful reverie. I turned round, not quickly or
in surprise or fear. Rather in the same dull wonder. The upper
part of the bookseller's door was ajar. It was that I had heard
opened. An old woman was peering out at us.
As our eyes met, she made a slight movement to close the door
again. But I did not stir, and seeming to be reassured by a
second glance, she nodded to me in a stealthy fashion. I drew a
step nearer, listlessly. "Pst! Pst!" she whispered. Her
wrinkled old face, which was like a Normandy apple long kept, was
soft with pity as she looked at Croisette. "Pst!"
"Well!" I said, mechanically.
"Is he taken?" she muttered.
"Who taken?" I asked stupidly.
She nodded towards the forsaken house, and answered, "The young
lord who lodged there? Ah! sirs," she continued, "he looked gay
and handsome, if you'll believe me, as he came from the king's
court yester even! As bonny a sight in his satin coat, and his
ribbons, as my eyes ever saw! And to think that they should be
hunting him like a rat to-day!"
The woman's words were few and simple. But what a change they
made in my world! How my heart awoke from its stupor, and leapt
up with a new joy and a new-born hope! "Did he get away?" I
cried eagerly. "Did he escape, mother, then?"
"Ay, that. he did!" she replied quickly. "That poor fellow,
yonder--he lies quiet enough now God forgive him his heresy, say
I!--kept the door manfully while the gentleman got on the roof,
and ran right down the street on the tops of the houses, with
them firing and hooting at him: for all the world as if he had
been a squirrel and they a pack of boys with stones!"
"And he escaped?"
"Escaped!" she answered more slowly, shaking her old head in
doubt. "I do not know about that I fear they have got him by
now, gentlemen. I have been shivering and shaking up stairs with
my husband--he is in bed, good man, and the safest place for him
--the saints have mercy upon us! But I heard them go with their
shouting and gunpowder right along to the river, and I doubt they
will take him between this and the CHATELET! I doubt they will."
"How long ago was it, dame?" I cried.
"Oh! may be half an hour. Perhaps you are friends of his?" she
But I did not stay to answer her. I shook Croisette, who had not
heard a word of this, by the shoulder. There is a chance that he
has escaped!" I cried in his ear. Escaped, do you hear?" And I
told him hastily what she had said.
It was fine, indeed, and a sight, to see the blood rush to his
cheeks, and the tears dry in his eyes, and energy and decision
spring to life in every nerve and muscle of his face, "Then there
is hope?" he cried, grasping my arm. "Hope, Anne! Come! Come!
Do not let us lose another instant. If he be alive let us join
The old woman tried to detain us, but in vain. Nay, pitying us,
and fearing, I think, that we were rushing on our deaths, she
cast aside her caution, and called after us aloud. We took no
heed, running after Croisette, who had not waited for our answer,
as fast as young limbs could carry us down the street. The
exhaustion we had felt a moment before when all seemed lost be it
remembered that we had not been to bed or tasted food for many
hours--fell from us on the instant, and was clean gone and
forgotten in the joy of this respite. Louis was living and for
the moment had escaped.
Escaped! But for how long? We soon had our answer. The moment
we turned the corner by the river-side, the murmur of a multitude
not loud but continuous, struck our ears, even as the breeze off
the water swept our cheeks. Across the river lay the thousand
roofs of the Ile de la Cite, all sparkling in the sunshine. But
we swept to the right, thinking little of THAT sight, and checked
our speed on finding ourselves on the skirts of the crowd.
Before us was a bridge--the Pont au Change, I think--and at its
head on our side of the water stood the CHATELET, with its hoary
turrets and battlements. Between us and the latter, and backed
only by the river, was a great open space half-filled with
people, mostly silent and watchful, come together as to a show,
and betraying, at present at least, no desire to take an active
part in what was going on.
We hurriedly plunged into the throng, and soon caught the clue to
the quietness and the lack of movement which seemed to prevail,
and which at first sight had puzzled us. For a moment the
absence of the dreadful symptoms we had come to know so well--the
flying and pursuing, the random blows, the shrieks and curses and
batterings on doors, the tipsy yells, had reassured us. But the
relief was short-lived. The people before us were under control.
A tighter grip seemed to close upon our hearts as we discerned
this, for we knew that the wild fury of the populace, like the
rush of a bull, might have given some chance of escape--in this
case as in others. But this cold-blooded ordered search left
Every face about us was turned in the same direction; away from
the river and towards a block of old houses which stood opposite
to it. The space immediately in front of these was empty, the
people being kept back by a score or so of archers of the guard
set at intervals, and by as many horsemen, who kept riding up and
down, belabouring the bolder spirits with the flat of their
swords,and so preserving a line. At each extremity of this--more
noticeably on our left where the line curved round the angle of
the buildings--stood a handful of riders, seven in a group
perhaps. And alone in the middle of the space so kept clear,
walking his horse up and down and gazing at the houses rode a man
of great stature, booted and armed, the feather nodding in his
bonnet. I could not see his face, but I had no need to see it.
I knew him, and groaned aloud. It was Bezers!
I understood the scene better now. The horsemen, stern, bearded
Switzers for the most part, who eyed the rabble about them with
grim disdain, and were by no means chary of their blows, were all
in his colours and armed to the teeth. The order and discipline
were of his making: the revenge of his seeking. A grasp as of
steel had settled upon our friend, and I felt that his last
chance was gone. Louis de Pavannes might as well be lying on his
threshold with his dead servant by his side, as be in hiding
within that ring of ordered swords.
It was with despairing eyes we looked at the old wooden houses.
They seemed to be bowing themselves towards us, their upper
stories projected so far, they were so decrepit. Their roofs
were a wilderness of gutters and crooked gables, of tottering
chimneys and wooden pinnacles and rotting beams, Amongst these I
judged Kit's lover was hiding. Well, it was a good place for
hide and seek-with any other player than DEATH. In the ground
floors of the houses there were no windows and no doors; by
reason, I learned afterwards, of the frequent flooding of the
river. But a long wooden gallery raised on struts ran along the
front, rather more than the height of a man from the ground, and
access to this was gained by a wooden staircase at each end.
Above this first gallery was a second, and above that a line of
windows set between the gables. The block--it may have run for
seventy or eighty yards along the shore--contained four houses,
each with a door opening on to the lower gallery. I saw indeed
that but for the Vidame's precautions Louis might well have
escaped. Had the mob once poured helter-skelter into that
labyrinth of rooms and passages he might with luck have mingled
with them, unheeded and unrecognized, and effected his escape
when they retreated.
But now there were sentries on each gallery and more on the roof.
Whenever one of the latter moved or seemed to be looking inward--
where a search party, I understood, were at work--indeed, if he
did but turn his head, a thrill ran through the crowd and a
murmur arose, which once or twice swelled to a savage roar such
as earlier had made me tremble. When this happened the impulse
came, it seemed to me, from the farther end of the line. There
the rougher elements were collected, and there I more than once
saw Bezers' troopers in conflict with the mob. In that quarter
too a savage chant was presently struck up, the whole gathering
joining in and yelling with an indescribably appalling effect:
"Hau! Hau! Huguenots!
Faites place aux Papegots!"
in derision of the old song said to be popular amongst the
Protestants. But in the Huguenot version the last words were of
We had worked our way by this time to the front of the line, and
looking into one another's eyes, mutely asked a question; but not
even Croisette had an answer ready. There could be no answer but
one. What could we do? Nothing. We were too late. Too late
again! And yet how dreadful it was to stand still among the
cruel, thoughtless mob and see our friend, the touch of whose
hand we knew so well, done to death for their sport! Done to
death as the old woman had said like any rat, not a soul save
ourselves pitying him! Not a soul to turn sick at his cry of
agony, or shudder at the glance of his dying eyes. It was
"Ah, well," muttered a woman beside me to her companion--there
were many women in the crowd--"it is down with the Huguenots, say
I! It is Lorraine is the fine man! But after all yon is a bonny
fellow and a proper, Margot! I saw him leap from roof to roof
over Love Lane, as if the blessed saints had carried him. And him
"It is the black art," the other answered, crossing herself.
"Maybe it is! But he will need it all to give that big man the
slip to-day," replied the first speaker comfortably.
"That devil!" Margot exclaimed, pointing with a stealthy gesture
of hate at the Vidame. And then in a fierce whisper, with
inarticulate threats, she told a story of him, which made me
shudder. "He did! And she in religion too!" she concluded.
"May our Lady of Loretto reward him."
The tale might be true for aught I knew, horrible as it was! I
had heard similar ones attributing things almost as fiendish to
him, times and again; from that poor fellow lying dead on
Pavannes' doorstep for one, and from others besides. As the
Vidame in his pacing to and fro turned towards us, I gazed at him
fascinated by his grim visage and that story. His eye rested on
the crowd about us, and I trembled, lest even at that distance he
should recognise us.
And he did! I had forgotten his keenness of sight. His face
flashed suddenly into a grim smile. The tail of his eye resting
upon us, and seeming to forbid us to move, he gave some orders.
The colour fled from my face. To escape indeed was impossible,
for we were hemmed in by the press and could scarcely stir a
limb. Yet I did make one effort.
"Croisette!" I muttered he was the rearmost--"stoop down. He
may not have seen you. Stoop down, lad!"
But St. Croix was obstinate and would not stoop. Nay, when one
of the mounted men came, and roughly ordered us into the open, it
was Croisette who pushing past us stepped out first with a lordly
air. I, following him, saw that his lips were firmly compressed
and that there was an eager light in his eyes. As we emerged,
the crowd in our wake broke the line, and tried to pursue us;
either hostilely or through eagerness to see what it meant. But
a dozen blows of the long pikes drove them back, howling and
cursing to their places.
I expected to be taken to Bezers; and what would follow I could
not tell. But he did always it seemed what we least expected,
for he only scowled at us now, a grim mockery on his lip, and
cried, "See that they do not escape again! But do them no harm,
sirrah, until I have the batch of them!"
He turned one way, and I another, my heart swelling with rage.
Would he dare to harm us? Would even the Vidame dare to murder a
Caylus' nephew openly and in cold blood? I did not think so.
And yet--and yet--
Croisette interrupted the train of my thoughts. I found that he
was not following me. He had sprung away, and in a dozen strides
reached the Vidame's stirrup, and was clasping his knee when I
turned. I could not hear at the distance at which I stood, what
he said, and the horseman to whom Bezers had committed us spurred
between us. But I heard the Vidame's answer.
"No! no! no!" he cried with a ring of restrained fury in his
voice. "Let my plans alone! What do you know of them? And if
you speak to me again, M. St. Croix--I think that is your name,
boy--I will--no, I will not kill you. That might please you, you
are stubborn, I can see. But I will have you stripped and lashed
like the meanest of my scullions! Now go, and take care!"
Impatience, hate and wild passion flamed in his face for the
moment-transfiguring it. Croisette came back to us slowly,
white-lipped and quiet. "Never mind," I said bitterly. "The
third time may bring luck."
Not that I felt much indignation at the Vidame's insult, or any
anger with the lad for incurring it; as I had felt on that other
occasion. Life and death seemed to be everything on this
morning. Words had ceased to please and annoy, for what are
words to the sheep in the shambles? One man's life and one
woman's happiness outside ourselves we thought only of these now.
And some day I reflected Croisette might remember even with
pleasure that he had, as a drowning man clutching at straws,
stooped to a last prayer for them.
We were placed in the middle of a knot of troopers who closed the
line to the right. And presently Marie touched me. He was
gazing intently at the sentry on the roof of the third house from
us; the farthest but one. The man's back was to the parapet, and
he was gesticulating wildly.
"He sees him!" Marie muttered.
I nodded almost in apathy. But this passed away, and I started
involuntarily and shuddered, as a savage roar, breaking the
silence, rang along the front of the mob like a rolling volley of
firearms. What was it? A man posted at a window on the upper
gallery had dropped his pike's point, and was levelling it at
some one inside: we could see no more.
But those in front of the window could; they saw too much for the
Vidame's precautions, as a moment showed. He had not laid his
account with the frenzy of a rabble, the passions of a mob which
had tasted blood. I saw the line at its farther end waver
suddenly and toss to and fro. Then a hundred hands went up, and
confused angry cries rose with them. The troopers struck about
them, giving back slowly as they did so. But their efforts were
in vain. With a scream of triumph a wild torrent of people broke
through between them, leaving them stranded; and rushed in a
headlong cataract towards the steps. Bezers was close to us at
the time. "S'death!" he cried, swearing oaths which even his
sovereign could scarce have equalled. "They will snatch him from
me yet, the hell-hounds!"
He whirled his horse round and spurred him in a dozen bounds to
the stairs at our end of the gallery. There he leaped from him,
dropping the bridle recklessly; and bounding up three steps at a
time, he ran along the gallery. Half-a-dozen of the troopers
about us stayed only to fling their reins to one of their number,
and then followed, their great boots clattering on the planks.
My breath came fast and short, for I felt it was a crisis. It
was a race between the two parties, or rather between the Vidame
and the leaders of the mob. The latter had the shorter way to
go. But on the narrow steps they were carried off their feet by
the press behind them, and fell over and hampered one another and
lost time. The Vidame, free from this drawback, was some way
along the gallery before they had set foot on it.
How I prayed--amid a scene of the wildest uproar and excitement--
that the mob might be first! Let there be only a short conflict
between Bezers' men and the people, and in the confusion Pavannes
might yet escape. Hope awoke in the turmoil. Above the yells of
the crowd a score of deep voices about me thundered "a Wolf! a
Wolf!" And I too, lost my head, and drew my sword, and screamed
at the top of my voice, "a Caylus! a Caylus!" with the maddest.
Thousands of eyes besides mine were strained on the foremost
figures on either side. They met as it chanced precisely at the
door of the house. The mob leader was a slender man, I saw; a
priest apparently, though now he was girt with unpriestly
weapons, his skirts were tucked up, and his head was bare. So
much my first glance showed me. It was at the second look it was
when I saw the blood forsake his pale lowering face and leave it
whiter than ever, when horror sprang along with recognition to
his eyes, when borne along by the crowd behind he saw his
position and who was before him--it was only then when his mean
figure shrank, and he quailed and would have turned but could
not, that I recognized the Coadjutor.
I was silent now, my mouth agape. There are seconds which are
minutes; ay, and many minutes. A man may die, a man may come
into life in such a second. In one of these, it seemed to me,
those two men paused, face to face; though in fact a pause was
for one of them impossible. He was between--and I think he knew
it--the devil and the deep sea. Yet he seemed to pause, while
all, even that yelling crowd below, held their breath. The next
moment, glaring askance at one another like two dogs unevenly
coupled, he and Bezers shot shoulder to shoulder into the
doorway, and in another jot of time would have been out of sight.
But then, in that instant, I saw something happen. The Vidame's
hand flashed up above the priest's head, and the cross-hilt of
his sheathed sword crashed down with awful force, and still more
awful passion, on the other's tonsure! The wretch went down like
a log, without a word, without a cry! Amid a roar of rage from a
thousand throats, a roar that might have shaken the stoutest
heart, and blanched the swarthiest cheek, Bezers disappeared
It was then I saw the power of discipline and custom. Few as
were the troopers who had followed him--a mere handful--they fell
without hesitation on the foremost of the crowd, who were already
in confusion, stumbling and falling over their leader's body; and
hurled them back pell-mell along the gallery. The throng below
had no firearms, and could give no aid at the moment; the stage
was narrow; in two minutes the Vidame's people had swept it clear
of the crowd and were in possession of it. A tall fellow took up
the priest's body, dead or alive, I do not know which, and flung
it as if it had been a sack of corn over the rail. It fell with
a heavy thud on the ground. I heard a piercing scream that rose
above that babel--one shrill scream! and the mob closed round
and hid the thing.
If the rascals had had the wit to make at once for the right-hand
stairs, where we stood with two or three of Bezers' men who had
kept their saddles, I think they might easily have disposed of
us, encumbered as we were, by the horses; and then they could
have attacked the handful on the gallery on both flanks. But the
mob had no leaders, and no plan of operations. They seized
indeed two or three of the scattered troopers, and tearing them
from their horses, wreaked their passion upon them horribly. But
most of the Switzers escaped, thanks to the attention the mob
paid to the houses and what was going forward on the galleries;
and these, extricating themselves joined us one by one, so that
gradually a little ring of stern faces gathered about the stair-
foot. A moment's hesitation, and seeing no help for it, we
ranged ourselves with them; and, unchecked as unbidden, sprang on
three of the led horses.
All this passed more quickly than I can relate it: so that
before our feet were well in the stirrups a partial silence, then
a mightier roar of anger at once proclaimed and hailed the re-
appearance of the Vidame. Bigoted beyond belief were the mob of
Paris of that day, cruel, vengeful, and always athirst for blood;
and this man had killed not only their leader but a priest. He
had committed sacrilege! What would they do? I could just, by
stooping forward, command a side view of the gallery, and the
scene passing there was such that I forgot in it our own peril.
For surely in all his reckless life Bezers had never been so
emphatically the man for the situation--had never shown to such
advantage as at this moment when he stood confronting the sea of
faces, the sneer on his lip, a smile in his eyes; and looked down
unblenching, a figure of scorn, on the men who were literally
agape for his life. The calm defiance of his steadfast look
fascinated even me. Wonder and admiration for the time took the
place of dislike. I could scarcely believe that there was not
some atom of good in this man so fearless. And no face but one
no face I think in the world, but one--could have drawn my eyes
from him. But that one face was beside him. I clutched Marie's
arm, and pointed to the bareheaded figure at Bezers' right hand.
It was Louis himself: our Louis de Pavannes, But he was changed
indeed from the gay cavalier I remembered, and whom I had last
seen riding down the street at Caylus, smiling back at us, and
waving his adieux to his mistress! Beside the Vidame he had the
air of being slight, even short. The face which I had known so
bright and winning, was now white and set. His fair, curling
hair--scarce darker than Croisette's--hung dank, bedabbled with
blood which flowed from a wound in his head. His sword was gone;
his dress was torn and disordered and covered with dust. His
lips moved. But he held up his head, he bore himself bravely
with it all; so bravely, that I choked, and my heart seemed
bursting as I looked at him standing there forlorn and now
unarmed. I knew that Kit seeing him thus would gladly have died
with him; and I thanked God she did not see him. Yet there was a
quietness in his fortitude which made a great difference between
his air and that of Bezers. He lacked, as became one looking
unarmed on certain death, the sneer and smile of the giant beside
What was the Vidame about to do? I shuddered as I asked myself.
Not surrender him, not fling him bodily to the people? No not
that: I felt sure he would let no others share his vengeance
that his pride would not suffer that. And even while I wondered
the doubt was solved. I saw Bezers raise his hand in a peculiar
fashion. Simultaneously a cry rang sharply out above the tumult,
and down in headlong charge towards the farther steps came the
band of horsemen, who had got clear of the crowd on that side.
They were but ten or twelve, but under his eye they charged, as
if they had been a thousand. The rabble shrank from the
collision, and fled aside. Quick as thought the riders swerved;
and changing their course, galloped through the looser part of
the throng, and in a trice drew rein side by side with us, a
laugh and a jeer on their reckless lips.
It was neatly done: and while it was being done the Vidame and
his knot of men, with those who had been searching the building,
hurried down the gallery towards us, their rear cleared for the
moment by the troopers' feint. The dismounted men came bundling
down the steps, their eyes aglow with the war-fire, and got
horses as they could. Among them I lost sight of Louis, but
perceived him presently, pale and bewildered, mounted behind a
trooper. A man sprang up before each of us too, greeting our
appearance merely by a grunt of surprise. For it was no time to
ask or answer. The mob was recovering itself, and each moment
brought it reinforcements, while its fury was augmented by the
trick we had played it, and the prospect of our escape.
We were under forty, all told; and some men were riding double.
Bezers' eye glanced hastily over his array, and lit on us three.
He turned and gave some order to his lieutenant. The fellow
spurred his horse, a splendid grey, as powerful as his master's,
alongside of Croisette, threw his arm round the lad, and dragged
him dexterously on to his own crupper. I did not understand the
action, but I saw Croisette settle himself behind Blaise Bure--
for he it was--and supposed no harm was intended. The next
moment we had surged forward, and were swaying to and fro in the
midst of the crowd.
What ensued I cannot tell. The outlook, so far as I was
concerned, was limited to wildly plunging horses--we were in the
centre of the band and riders swaying in the saddle--with a
glimpse here and there of a fringe of white scowling faces and
tossing arms. Once, a lane opening, I saw the Vidame's charger
--he was in the van--stumble and fall among the crowd and heard a
great shout go up. But Bezers by a mighty effort lifted it to
its legs again. And once too, a minute later, those riding on my
right, swerved outwards, and I saw something I never afterwards
It was the body of the Coadjutor, lying face upwards, the eyes
open and the teeth bared in a last spasm. Prostrate on it lay a
woman, a young woman, with hair like red gold falling about her
neck, and skin like milk. I did not know whether she was alive
or dead; but I noticed that one arm stuck out stiffly and the
crowd flying before the sudden impact of the horses must have
passed over her, even if she had escaped the iron hoofs which
followed. Still in the fleeting glance I had of her as my horse
bounded aside, I saw no wound or disfigurement. Her one arm was
cast about the priest's breast; her face was hidden on it. But
for all that, I knew her--knew her, shuddering for the woman
whose badges I was even now wearing, whose gift I bore at my
side; and I remembered the priest's vaunt of a few hours before,
made in her presence, "There is no man in Paris shall thwart me
It had been a vain boast indeed! No hand in all that host of
thousands was more feeble than his now: for good or ill! No
brain more dull, no voice less heeded. A righteous retribution
indeed had overtaken him. He had died by the sword he had drawn
--died, a priest, by violence! The cross he had renounced had
crushed him. And all his schemes and thoughts, and no doubt they
had been many, had perished with him. It had come to this, only
this, the sum of the whole matter, that there was one wicked man
the less in Paris--one lump of breathless clay the more.
For her--the woman on his breast--what man can judge a woman,
knowing her? And not knowing her, how much less? For the
present I put her out of my mind, feeling for the moment faint
We were clear of the crowd, and clattering unmolested down a
paved street before I fully recovered from the shock which this
sight had caused me. Wonder whither we were going took its
place. To Bezers' house? My heart sank at the prospect if that
were so. Before I thought of an alternative, a gateway flanked
by huge round towers appeared before us, and we pulled up
suddenly, a confused jostling mass in the narrow way; while some
words passed between the Vidame and the Captain of the Guard. A
pause of several minutes followed; and then the gates rolled
slowly open, and two by two we passed under the arch. Those
gates might have belonged to a fortress or a prison, a dungeon or
a palace, for all I knew.
They led, however, to none of these, but to an open space, dirty
and littered with rubbish, marked by a hundred ruts and tracks,
and fringed with disorderly cabins and make-shift booths. And
beyond this--oh, ye gods! the joy of it--beyond this, which we
crossed at a rapid trot, lay the open country!
The transition and relief were so wonderful that I shall never
forget them. I gazed on the wide landscape before me, lying
quiet and peaceful in the sunlight, and could scarce believe in
my happiness. I drew the fresh air into my lungs, I threw up my
sheathed sword and caught it again in a frenzy of delight, while
the gloomy men about me smiled at my enthusiasm. I felt the
horse beneath me move once more like a thing of life. No
enchanter with his wand, not Merlin nor Virgil, could have made a
greater change in my world, than had the captain of the gate with
his simple key! Or so it seemed to me in the first moments of
freedom, and escape--of removal from those loathsome streets.
I looked back at Paris--at the cloud of smoke which hung over the
towers and roofs; and it seemed to me the canopy of hell itself.
I fancied that my head still rang with the cries and screams and
curses, the sounds of death. In very fact, I could hear the dull
reports of firearms near the Louvre, and the jangle of the bells.
Country-folk were congregated at the cross-roads, and in the
villages, listening and gazing; asking timid questions of the
more good-natured among us, and showing that the rumour of the
dreadful work doing in the town had somehow spread abroad. And
this though I learned afterwards that the keys of the city had
been taken the night before to the king, and that, except a party
with the Duke of Guise, who had left at eight in pursuit of
Montgomery and some of the Protestants--lodgers, happily for
themselves, in the Faubourg St. Germain--no one had left the town
While I am speaking of our departure from Paris, I may say what I
have to say of the dreadful excesses of those days, ay, and of
the following days; excesses of which France is now ashamed, and
for which she blushed even before the accession of his late
Majesty. I am sometimes asked, as one who witnessed them, what I
think, and I answer that it was not our country which was to
blame. A something besides Queen Catherine de' Medici had been
brought from Italy forty years before, a something invisible but
very powerful; a spirit of cruelty and treachery. In Italy it
had done small harm. But grafted on French daring and
recklessness, and the rougher and more soldierly manners of the
north, this spirit of intrigue proved capable of very dreadful
things. For a time, until it wore itself out, it was the curse
of France. Two Dukes of Guise, Francis and Henry, a cardinal of
Guise, the Prince of Conde, Admiral Coligny, King Henry the Third
all these the foremost men of their day--died by assassination
within little more than a quarter of a century, to say nothing of
the Prince of Orange, and King Henry the Great
Then mark--a most curious thing--the extreme youth of those who
were in this business. France, subject to the Queen-Mother, of
course, was ruled at the time by boys scarce out of their tutors'
hands. They were mere lads, hot-blooded, reckless nobles, ready
for any wild brawl, without forethought or prudence. Of the four
Frenchmen who it is thought took the leading parts, one, the
king, was twenty-two; Monsieur, his brother, was only twenty; the
Duke of Guise was twenty-one. Only the Marshal de Tavannes was
of mature age. For the other conspirators, for the Queen-Mother,
for her advisers Retz and Nevers and Birague, they were Italians;
and Italy may answer for them if Florence, Mantua and Milan care
to raise the glove.
To return to our journey. A league from the town we halted at a
large inn, and some of us dismounted. Horses were brought out to
fill the places of those lost or left behind, and Bure had food
served to us. We were famished and exhausted, and ate it
ravenously, as if we could never have enough.
The Vidame sat his horse apart, served by his page, I stole a
glance at him, and it struck me that even on his iron nature the
events of the night had made some impression. I read, or thought
I read, in his countenance, signs of emotions not quite in
accordance with what I knew of him--emotions strange and varied.
I could almost have sworn that as he looked at us a flicker of
kindliness lit up his stern and cruel gloom; I could almost have
sworn he smiled with a curious sadness. As for Louis, riding
with a squad who stood in a different part of the yard, he did
not see us; had not yet seen us at all. His side face, turned
towards me, was pale and sad, his manner preoccupied, his mien
rather sorrowful than downcast. He was thinking, I judged, as
much of the many brave men who had yesterday been his friends--
companions at board and play-table--as of his own fate. When we
presently, at a signal from Bure, took to the road again, I asked
no permission, but thrusting my horse forward, rode to his side
as he passed through the gateway.
CHAPTER XI. A NIGHT OF SORROW.
He turned with a start at the sound of my voice, joy and
bewilderment--and no wonder--in his countenance. He had not
supposed us to be within a hundred leagues of him. And lo! here
we were, knee to knee, hand meeting hand in a long grasp, while
his eyes, to which tears sprang unbidden, dwelt on my face as
though they could read in it the features of his sweetheart.
Some one had furnished him with a hat, and enabled him to put his
dress in order, and wash his wound, which was very slight, and
these changes had improved his appearance; so that the shadow of
grief and despondency passing for a moment from him in the joy of
seeing me, he looked once more his former self: as he had looked
in the old days at Caylus on his return from hawking, or from
some boyish escapade among the hills. Only, alas! he wore no
"And now tell me all," he cried, after his first exclamation of
wonder had found vent. "How on earth do you come here? Here, of
all places, and by my side? Is all well at Caylus? Surely
Mademoiselle is not--"
"Mademoiselle is well! perfectly well! And thinking of you, I
swear!" I answered passionately. "For us," I went on, eager for
the moment to escape that subject--how could I talk of it in the
daylight and under strange eyes?--"Marie and Croisette are
behind, We left Caylus eight days ago. We reached Paris
yesterday evening. We have not been to bed! We have passed,
Louis, such a night as I never--"
He stopped me with a gesture. "Hush!" he said, raising his
hand. "Don't speak of it, Anne!" and I saw that the fate of his
friends was still too recent, the horror of his awakening to
those dreadful sights and sounds was still too vivid for him to
bear reference to them. Yet after riding for a time in silence--
though his lips moved--he asked me again what had brought us up.
"We came to warn you--of him," I answered, pointing to the
solitary, moody figure of the Vidame, who was riding ahead of the
party. "He--he said that Kit should never marry you, and
boasted of what he would do to you, and frightened her. So,
learning he was going to Paris, we followed him--to put you on
your guard, you know." And I briefly sketched our adventures,
and the strange circumstances and mistakes which had delayed us
hour after hour, through all that strange night, until the time
had gone by when we could do good.
His eyes glistened and his colour rose as I told the story. He
wrung my hand warmly, and looked back to smile at Marie and
Croisette. "It was like you!" he ejaculated with emotion. "It
was like her cousins! Brave, brave lads! The Vicomte will live
to be proud of you! Some day you will all do great things! I
"But oh, Louis!" I exclaimed sorrowfully, though my heart was
bounding with pride at his words, "if we had only been in time!
If we had only come to you two hours earlier!"
"You would have spoken to little purpose then, I fear," he
replied, shaking his head. "We were given over as a prey to the
enemy. Warnings? We had warnings in plenty. De Rosny warned
us, and we scoffed at him. The king's eye warned us, and we
trusted him. But--" and Louis' form dilated and his hand rose as
he went on, and I thought of his cousin's prediction--"it will
never be so again in France, Anne! Never! No man will after
this trust another! There will be no honour, no faith, no
quarter, and no peace! And for the Valois who has done this, the
sword will never depart from his house! I believe it! I do
How truly he spoke we know now. For two-and-twenty years after
that twenty-fourth of August, 1572, the sword was scarcely laid
aside in France for a single month. In the streets of Paris, at
Arques, and Coutras, and Ivry, blood flowed like water that the
blood of the St. Bartholomew might be forgotten--that blood
which, by the grace of God, Navarre saw fall from the dice box on
the eve of the massacre. The last of the Valois passed to the
vaults of St. Denis: and a greater king, the first of all
Frenchmen, alive or dead, the bravest, gayest, wisest of the
land, succeeded him: yet even he had to fall by the knife, in a
moment most unhappy for his country, before France, horror-
stricken, put away the treachery and evil from her.
Talking with Louis as we rode, it was not unnatural--nay, it was
the natural result of the situation--that I should avoid one
subject. Yet that subject was the uppermost in my thoughts.
What were the Vidame's intentions? What was the meaning of this
strange journey? What was to be Louis' fate? I shrank with good
reason from asking him these questions. There could be so little
room for hope, even after that smile which I had seen Bezers
smile, that I dared not dwell upon them. I should but torture
him and myself.
So it was he who first spoke about it. Not at that time, but
after sunset, when the dusk had fallen upon us, and found us
still plodding southward with tired horses; a link outwardly like
other links in the long chain of riders, toiling onwards. Then
he said suddenly, "Do you know whither we are going, Anne?"
I started, and found myself struggling with a strange confusion
before I could reply. "Home," I suggested at random.
"Home? No. And yet nearly home. To Cahors," he answered with
an odd quietude. "Your home, my boy, I shall never see again,
Nor Kit! Nor my own Kit!" It was the first time I had heard him
call her by the fond name we used ourselves. And the pathos in
his tone as of the past, not the present, as of pure memory--I
was very thankful that I could not in the dusk see his face
--shook my self-control. I wept. "Nay, my lad," he went on,
speaking softly and leaning from his saddle so that he could lay
his hand on my shoulder "we are all men together. We must be
brave. Tears cannot help us, so we should leave them to the--
I cried more passionately at that. Indeed his own voice quavered
over the last word. But in a moment he was talking to me coolly
and quietly. I had muttered something to the effect that the
Vidame would not dare--it would be too public.
"There is no question of daring in it," he replied. "And the
more public it is, the better he will like it. They have dared
to take thousands of lives since yesterday. There is no one to
call him to account since the king--our king forsooth!--has
declared every Huguenot an outlaw, to be killed wherever he be
met with. No, when Bezers disarmed me yonder," he pointed as he
spoke to his wound, "I looked of course for instant death. Anne!
I saw blood in his eyes! But he did not strike."
"Why not?" I asked in suspense.
"I can only guess," Louis answered with a sigh. "He told me that
my life was in his hands, but that he should take it at his own
time. Further that if I would not give my word to go with him
without trying to escape, he would throw me to those howling dogs
outside. I gave my word. We are on the road together. And oh,
Anne! yesterday, only yesterday, at this time I was riding home
with Teligny from the Louvre, where we had been playing at paume
with the king! And the world--the world was very fair."
"I saw you, or rather Croisette did," I muttered as his sorrow--
not for himself, but his friends--forced him to stop. "Yet how,
Louis, do you know that we are going to Cahors?"
"He told me, as we passed through the gates, that he was
appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Quercy to carry out the edict
against the religion. Do you not see, Anne?" my companion added
bitterly, "to kill me at once were too small a revenge for him!
He must torture me--or rather he would if he could--by the pains
Besides, my execution will so finely open his bed of justice.
Bah!" and Pavannes raised his head proudly, "I fear him not! I
fear him not a jot!"
For a moment he forgot Kit, the loss of his friends, his own
doom. He snapped his fingers in derision of his foe.
But my heart sank miserably. The Vidame's rage I remembered had
been directed rather against my cousin than her lover; and now by
the light of his threats I read Bezers' purpose more clearly than
Louis could. His aim was to punish the woman who had played with
him. To do so he was bringing her lover from Paris that he might
execute him--AFTER GIVING HER NOTICE! That was it: after giving
her notice, it might be in her very presence! He would lure her
to Cahors, and then--
I shuddered. I well might feel that a precipice was opening at
my feet. There was something in the plan so devilish, yet so
accordant with those stories I had heard of the Wolf, that I felt
no doubt of my insight. I read his evil mind, and saw in a
moment why he had troubled himself with us. He hoped to draw
Mademoiselle to Cahors by our means.
Of course I said nothing of this to Louis. I hid my feelings as
well as I could. But I vowed a great vow that at the eleventh
hour we would baulk the Vidame. Surely if all else failed we
could kill him, and, though we died ourselves, spare Kit this
ordeal. My tears were dried up as by a fire. My heart burned
with a great and noble rage: or so it seemed to me!
I do not think that there was ever any journey so strange as this
one of ours. We met with the same incidents which had pleased us
on the road to Paris. But their novelty was gone. Gone too were
the cosy chats with old rogues of landlords and good-natured
dames. We were travelling now in such force that our coming was
rather a terror to the innkeeper than a boon. How much the
Lieutenant-Governor of Quercy, going down to his province,
requisitioned in the king's name; and for how much he paid, we
could only judge from the gloomy looks which followed us as we
rode away each morning. Such looks were not solely due I fear to
the news from Paris, although for some time we were the first
bearers of the tidings.
Presently, on the third day of our journey I think, couriers from
the Court passed us: and henceforth forestalled us. One of
these messengers--who I learned from the talk about me was bound
for Cahors with letters for the Lieutenant-Governor and the
Count-Bishop--the Vidame interviewed and stopped. How it was
managed I do not know, but I fear the Count-Bishop never got his
letters, which I fancy would have given him some joint authority.
Certainly we left the messenger--a prudent fellow with a care for
his skin--in comfortable quarters at Limoges, whence I do not
doubt he presently returned to Paris at his leisure.
The strangeness of the journey however arose from none of these
things, but from the relations of our party to one another.
After the first day we four rode together, unmolested, so long as
we kept near the centre of the straggling cavalcade. The Vidame
always rode alone, and in front, brooding with bent head and
sombre face over his revenge, as I supposed. He would ride in
this fashion, speaking to no one and giving no orders, for a day
together. At times I came near to pitying him. He had loved Kit
in his masterful way, the way of one not wont to be thwarted, and
he had lost her--lost her, whatever might happen. He would get
nothing after all by his revenge. Nothing but ashes in the
mouth. And so I saw in softer moments something inexpressibly
melancholy in that solitary giant-figure pacing always alone.
He seldom spoke to us. More rarely to Louis. When he did, the
harshness of his voice and his cruel eyes betrayed the gloomy
hatred in which he held him. At meals he ate at one end of the
table: we four at the other, as three of us had done on that
first evening in Paris. And sometimes the covert looks, the grim
sneer he shot at his rival--his prisoner--made me shiver even in
the sunshine. Sometimes, on the other hand, when I took him
unawares, I found an expression on his face I could not read.
I told Croisette, but warily, my suspicions of his purpose. He
heard me, less astounded to all appearance than I had expected.
Presently I learned the reason. He had his own view. "Do you
not think it possible, Anne?" he suggested timidly--we were of
course alone at the time-- "that he thinks to make Louis resign
"Resign her!" I exclaimed obtusely. "How?"
"By giving him a choice--you understand?"
I did understand I saw it in a moment. I had been dull not to
see it before. Bezers might put it in this way: let M. de
Pavannes resign his mistress and live, or die and lose her.
"I see," I answered. "But Louis would not give her up. Not to
"He would lose her either way," Croisette answered in a low tone.
"That is not however the worst of it. Louis is in his power.
Suppose he thinks to make Kit the arbiter, Anne, and puts Louis
up to ransom, setting Kit for the price? And gives her the
option of accepting himself, and saving Louis' life; or refusing,
and leaving Louis to die?"
"St. Croix!" I exclaimed fiercely. "He would not be so base!"
And yet was not even this better than the blind vengeance I had
myself attributed to him?
"Perhaps not," Croisette answered, while he gazed onwards through
the twilight. We were at the time the foremost of the party save
the Vidame; and there was nothing to interrupt our view of his
gigantic figure as he moved on alone before us with bowed
shoulders. "Perhaps not," Croisette repeated thoughtfully.
"Sometimes I think we do not understand him; and that after all
there may be worse people in the world than Bezers."
I looked hard at the lad, for that was not what I had meant.
"Worse?" I said. "I do not think so. Hardly!"
"Yes, worse," he replied, shaking his head. "Do you remember
lying under the curtain in the box-bed at Mirepoix's?"
"Of course I do! Do you think I shall ever forget it?"
"And Madame d'O coming in?"
"With the Coadjutor?" I said with a shudder. "Yes."
"No, the second time," he answered, "when she came back alone.
It was pretty dark, you remember, and Madame de Pavannes was at
the window, and her sister did not see her?"
"Well, well, I remember," I said impatiently. I knew from the
tone of his voice that he had something to tell me about Madame
d'O, and I was not anxious to hear it. I shrank, as a wounded
man shrinks from the cautery, from hearing anything about that
woman; herself so beautiful, yet moving in an atmosphere of
suspicion and horror. Was it shame, or fear, or some chivalrous
feeling having its origin in that moment when I had fancied
myself her knight? I am not sure, for I had not made up my mind
even now whether I ought to pity or detest her; whether she had
made a tool of me, or I had been false to her.
"She came up to the bed, you remember, Anne?" Croisette went on.
"You were next to her. She saw you indistinctly, and took you
for her sister. And then I sprang from the bed."
"I know you did!" I exclaimed sharply. All this time I had
forgotten that grievance. "You nearly frightened her out of her
wits, St. Croix. I cannot think what possessed you--why you did
"To save your life, Anne" he answered solemnly, "and her from a
crime! an unutterable, an unnatural crime. She had come back to
I can hardly tell it you--to murder her sister. You start. You
do not believe me. It sounds too horrible. But I could see
better than you could. She was exactly between you and the
light. I saw the knife raised. I saw her wicked face! If I had
not startled her as I did, she would have stabbed you. She
dropped the knife on the floor, and I picked it up and have it.
I looked furtively, and turned away again, shivering. "Why," I
muttered, "why did she do it?"
"She had failed you know to get her sister back to Pavannes'
house, where she would have fallen an easy victim. Bezers, who
knew Madame d'O, prevented that. Then that fiend slipped back
with her knife; thinking that in the common butchery the crime
would be overlooked, and never investigated, and that Mirepoix
would be silent!"
I said nothing. I was stunned. Yet I believed the story. When
I went over the facts in my mind I found that a dozen things,
overlooked at the time and almost forgotten in the hurry of
events, sprang up to confirm it. M. de Pavannes'--the other M.
de Pavannes'--suspicions had been well founded. Worse than
Bezers was she? Ay! worse a hundred times. As much worse as
treachery ever is than violence; as the pitiless fraud of the
serpent is baser than the rage of the wolf.
"I thought," Croisette added softly, not looking at me, "when I
discovered that you had gone off with her, that I should never
see you again, Anne. I gave you up for lost. The happiest
moment of my life I think was when I saw you come back."
"Croisette," I whispered piteously, my cheeks burning, "let us
never speak of her again."
And we never did--for years. But how strange is life. She and
the wicked man with whom her fate seemed bound up had just
crossed our lives when their own were at the darkest. They
clashed with us, and, strangers and boys as we were, we ruined
them. I have often asked myself what would have happened to me
had I met her at some earlier and less stormy period--in the
brilliance of her beauty. And I find but one answer. I should
bitterly have rued the day. Providence was good to me. Such men
and such women, we may believe have ceased to exist now. They
flourished in those miserable days of war and divisions, and
passed away with them like the foul night-birds of the battle-
To return to our journey. In the morning sunshine one could not
but be cheerful, and think good things possible. The worst trial
I had came with each sunset. For then--we generally rode late
into the evening--Louis sought my side to talk to me of his
sweetheart. And how he would talk of her! How many thousand
messages he gave me for her! How often he recalled old days
among the hills, with each laugh and jest and incident, when we
five had been as children! Until I would wonder passionately,
the tears running down my face in the darkness, how he could--how
he could talk of her in that quiet voice which betrayed no
rebellion against fate, no cursing of Providence! How he could
plan for her and think of her when she should be alone!
Now I understand it. He was still labouring under the shock of
his friends' murder. He was still partially stunned. Death
seemed natural and familiar to him, as to one who had seen his
allies and companions perish without warning or preparation.
Death had come to be normal to him, life the exception; as I have
known it seem to a child brought face to face with a corpse for
the first time.
One afternoon a strange thing happened. We could see the
Auvergne hills at no great distance on our left--the Puy de Dome
above them--and we four were riding together. We had fallen--an
unusual thing--to the rear of the party. Our road at the moment
was a mere track running across moorland, sprinkled here and
there with gorse and brushwood. The main company had straggled
on out of sight. There were but half a dozen riders to be seen
an eighth of a league before us, a couple almost as far behind.
I looked every way with a sudden surging of the heart. For the
first time the possibility of flight occurred to me. The rough
Auvergne hills were within reach. Supposing we could get a lead
of a quarter of a league, we could hardly be caught before
darkness came and covered us. Why should we not put spurs to our
horses and ride off?
"Impossible!" said Pavannes quietly, when I spoke.
"Why?" I asked with warmth.
"Firstly," he replied, "because I have given my word to go with
the Vidame to Cahors."
My face flushed hotly. But I cried, "What of that? You were
taken by treachery! Your safe conduct was disregarded. Why
should you be scrupulous? Your enemies are not. This is folly?"
"I think not. Nay," Louis answered, shaking his head, "you would
not do it yourself in my place."
"I think I should," I stammered awkwardly.
"No, you would not, lad," he said smiling. "I know you too well.
But if I would do it, it is impossible." He turned in the saddle
and, shading his eyes with his hand from the level rays of the
sun, looked back intently. "It is as I thought," he continued.
"One of those men is riding grey Margot, which Bure said
yesterday was the fastest mare in the troop. And the man on her
is a light weight. The other fellow has that Norman bay horse we
were looking at this morning. It is a trap laid by Bezers, Anne.
If we turned aside a dozen yards, those two would be after us
like the wind."
"Do you mean," I cried, "that Bezers has drawn his men forward on
"Precisely; was Louis's answer. "That is the fact. Nothing
would please him better than to take my honour first, and my life
afterwards. But, thank God, only the one is in his power."
And when I came to look at the horsemen, immediately before us,
they confirmed Louis's view. They were the best mounted of the
party: all men of light weight too. One or other of them was
constantly looking back. As night fell they closed in upon us
with their usual care. When Bure joined us there was a gleam of
intelligence in his bold eyes, a flash of conscious trickery. He
knew that we had found him out, and cared nothing for it.
And the others cared nothing. But the thought that if left to
myself I should have fallen into the Vidame's cunning trap filled
me with new hatred towards him; such hatred and such fear--for
there was humiliation mingled with them--as I had scarcely felt
before. I brooded over this, barely noticing what passed in our
company for hours--nay, not until the next day when, towards
evening, the cry arose round me that we were within sight of
Cahors. Yes, there it lay below us, in its shallow basin,
surrounded by gentle hills. The domes of the cathedral, the
towers of the Vallandre Bridge, the bend of the Lot, where its
stream embraces the town--I knew them all. Our long journey was
And I had but one idea. I had some time before communicated to
Croisette the desperate design I had formed--to fall upon Bezers
and kill him in the midst of his men in the last resort. Now the
time had come if the thing was ever to be done: if we had not
left it too long already. And I looked about me. There was some
confusion and jostling as we halted on the brow of the hill,
while two men were despatched ahead to announce the governor's
arrival, and Bure, with half a dozen spears, rode out as an
The road where we stood was narrow, a shallow cutting winding
down the declivity of the hills. The horses were tired, It was a
bad time and place for my design, and only the coming night was
in my favour. But I was desperate.
Yet before I moved or gave a signal which nothing could recall, I
scanned the landscape eagerly, scrutinizing in turn the small,
rich plain below us, warmed by the last rays of the sun, the bare
hills here glowing, there dark, the scattered wood-clumps and
spinneys that filled the angles of the river, even the dusky line
of helm-oaks that crowned the ridge beyond--Caylus way. So near
our own country there might be help! If the messenger whom we
had despatched to the Vicomte before leaving home had reached
him, our uncle might have returned, and even be in Cahors to meet
But no party appeared in sight: and I saw no place where an
ambush could be lying. I remembered that no tidings of our
present plight or of what had happened could have reached the
Vicomte. The hope faded out of life as soon as despair had given
it birth. We must fend for ourselves and for Kit.
That was my justification. I leaned from my saddle towards
Croisette--I was riding by his side--and muttered, as I felt my
horse's head and settled myself firmly in the stirrups, "You
remember what I said? Are you ready?"
He looked at me in a startled way, with a face showing white in
the shadow: and from me to the one solitary figure seated like a
pillar a score of paces in front with no one between us and it.
"There need be but two of us," I muttered, loosening my sword.
"Shall it be you or Marie? The others must leap their horses out
of the road in the confusion, cross the river at the Arembal Ford
if they are not overtaken, and make for Caylus."
He hesitated. I do not know whether it had anything to do with
his hesitation that at that moment the cathedral bell in the town
below us began to ring slowly for Vespers. Yes, he hesitated.
He--a Caylus. Turning to him again, I repeated my question
impatiently. "Which shall it be? A moment, and we shall be
moving on, and it will be too late."
He laid his hand hurriedly on my bridle, and began a rambling
answer. Rambling as it was I gathered his meaning. It was
enough for me! I cut him short with one word of fiery
indignation, and turned to Marie and spoke quickly. "Will you,
then?" I said.
But Marie shook his head in perplexity, and answering little,
said the same. So it happened a second time.
Strange! Yet strange as it seemed, I was not greatly surprised.
Under other circumstances I should have been beside myself with
anger at the defection. Now I felt as if I had half expected it,
and without further words of reproach I dropped my head and gave
it up. I passed again into the stupor of endurance. The Vidame
was too strong for me. It was useless to fight against him. We
were under the spell. When the troop moved forward, I went with
them, silent and apathetic.
We passed through the gate of Cahors, and no doubt the scene was
worthy of note; but I had only a listless eye for it--much such
an eye as a man about to be broken on the wheel must have for
that curious instrument, supposing him never to have seen it
before. The whole population had come out to line the streets
through which we rode, and stood gazing, with scarcely veiled
looks of apprehension, at the procession of troopers and the
stern face of the new governor.
We dismounted passively in the courtyard of the castle, and were
for going in together, when Bure intervened. "M. de Pavannes,"
he said, pushing rather rudely between us, "will sup alone to-
night. For you, gentlemen, this way, if you please."
I went without remonstrance. What was the use? I was conscious
that the Vidame from the top of the stairs leading to the grand
entrance was watching us with a wolfish glare in his eyes. I
went quietly. But I heard Croisette urging something with
We were led through a low doorway to a room on the ground floor;
a place very like a cell. Were we took our meal in silence.
When it was over I flung myself on one of the beds prepared for
us, shrinking from my companions rather in misery than in
No explanation had passed between us. Still I knew that the
other two from time to time eyed me doubtfully. I feigned
therefore to be asleep, but I heard Bure enter to bid us good-
night--and see that we had not escaped. And I was conscious too
of the question Croisette put to him, "Does M. de Pavannes lie
alone to-night, Bure?"
"Not entirely," the captain answered with gloomy meaning. Indeed
he seemed in bad spirits himself, or tired. "The Vidame is
anxious for his soul's welfare, and sends a priest to him."
They sprang to their feet at that. But the light and its bearer,
who so far recovered himself as to chuckle at his master's pious
thought, had disappeared. They were left to pace the room, and
reproach themselves and curse the Vidame in an agony of late
repentance. Not even Marie could find a loop-hole of escape from
here. The door was double-locked; the windows so barred that a
cat could scarcely pass through them; the walls were of solid
Meanwhile I lay and feigned to sleep, and lay feigning through
long, long hours; though my heart like theirs throbbed in
response to the dull hammering that presently began without, and
not far from us, and lasted until daybreak. From our windows,
set low and facing a wall, we could see nothing. But we could
guess what the noise meant, the dull, earthy thuds when posts
were set in the ground, the brisk, wooden clattering when one
plank was laid to another. We could not see the progress of the
work, or hear the voices of the workmen, or catch the glare of
their lights. But we knew what they were doing. They were
raising the scaffold.
CHAPTER XII. JOY IN THE MORNING.
I was too weary with riding to go entirely without sleep. And
moreover it is anxiety and the tremor of excitement which make
the pillow sleepless, not, heaven be thanked, sorrow. God made
man to lie awake and hope: but never to lie awake and grieve.
An hour or two before daybreak I fell asleep, utterly worn out.
When I awoke, the sun was high, and shining slantwise on our
window. The room was gay with the morning rays, and soft with
the morning freshness, and I lay a while, my cheek on my hand,
drinking in the cheerful influence as I had done many and many a
day in our room at Caylus. It was the touch of Marie's hand,
laid timidly on my arm, which roused me with a shock to
consciousness. The truth broke upon me. I remembered where we
were, and what was before us. "Will you get up, Anne?"
Croisette said. "The Vidame has sent for us."
I got to my feet, and buckled on my sword. Croisette was leaning
against the wall, pale and downcast. Bure filled the open
doorway, his feathered cap in his hand, a queer smile on his
face. "You are a good sleeper, young gentleman," he said. "You
should have a good conscience."
"Better than yours, no doubt!" I retorted, "or your master's."
He shrugged his shoulders, and, bidding us by a sign to follow
him, led the way through several gloomy passages. At the end of
these, a flight of stone steps leading upwards seemed to promise
something better; and true enough, the door at the top being
opened, the murmur of a crowd reached our ears, with a burst of
sunlight and warmth. We were in a lofty room, with walls in some
places painted, and elsewhere hung with tapestry; well lighted by
three old pointed windows reaching to the rush-covered floor.
The room was large, set here and there with stands of arms, and
had a dais with a raised carved chair at one end. The ceiling
was of blue, with gold stars set about it. Seeing this, I
remembered the place. I had been in it once, years ago, when I
had attended the Vicomte on a state visit to the governor. Ah!
that the Vicomte were here now!
I advanced to the middle window, which was open. Then I started
back, for outside was the scaffold built level with the floor,
and rush-covered like it! Two or three people were lounging on
it. My eyes sought Louis among the group, but in vain. He was
not there: and while I looked for him, I heard a noise behind
me, and he came in, guarded by four soldiers with pikes.
His face was pale and grave, but perfectly composed. There was a
wistful look in his eyes indeed, as if he were thinking of
something or some one far away--Kit's face on the sunny hills of
Quercy where he had ridden with her, perhaps; a look which seemed
to say that the doings here were nothing to him, and the parting
was yonder where she was. But his bearing was calm and
collected, his step firm and fearless. When he saw us, indeed
his face lightened a moment and he greeted us cheerfully, even
acknowledging Bure's salutation with dignity and good temper.
Croisette sprang towards him impulsively, and cried his name--
Croisette ever the first to speak. But before Louis could grasp
his hand, the door at the bottom of the hall was swung open, and
the Vidame came hurriedly in.
He was alone. He glanced round, his forbidding face, which was
somewhat flushed as if by haste, wearing a scowl. Then he saw
us, and, nodding haughtily, strode up the floor, his spurs
clanking heavily on the boards. We gave us no greeting, but by a
short word dismissed Bure and the soldiers to the lower end of
the room. And then he stood and looked at us four, but
principally at his rival; and looked, and looked with eyes of
smouldering hate. And there was a silence, a long silence, while
the murmur of the crowd came almost cheerfully through the
window, and the sparrows under the eaves chirped and twittered,
and the heart that throbbed least painfully was, I do believe,
Louis de Pavannes'!
At last Bezers broke the silence.
"M. de Pavannes!" he began, speaking hoarsely, yet concealing
all passion under a cynical smile and a mock politeness, "M. de
Pavannes, I hold the king's commission to put to death all the
Huguenots within my province of Quercy. Have you anything to
say, I beg, why I should not begin with you? Or do you wish to
return to the Church?"
Louis shrugged his shoulders as in contempt, and held his peace,
I saw his captor's great hands twitch convulsively at this, but
still the Vidame mastered himself, and when he spoke again he
spoke slowly. "Very well," he continued, taking no heed of us,
the silent witnesses of this strange struggle between the two
men, but eyeing Louis only. "You have wronged me more than any
man alive. Alive or dead! or dead! You have thwarted me, M. de
Pavannes, and taken from me the woman I loved. Six days ago I
might have killed you. I had it in my power. I had but to leave
you to the rabble, remember, and you would have been rotting at
Montfaucon to-day, M. de Pavannes."
"That is true," said Louis quietly. "Why so many words?"
But the Vidame went on as if he had not heard. "I did not leave
you to them," he resumed, "and yet I hate you--more than I ever
hated any man yet, and I am not apt to forgive. But now the time
has come, sir, for my revenge! The oath I swore to your mistress
a fortnight ago I will keep to the letter. I--Silence, babe!"
he thundered, turning suddenly, "or I will keep my word with you
Croisette had muttered something, and this had drawn on him the
glare of Bezers' eyes. But the threat was effectual. Croisette
was silent. The two were left henceforth to one another.
Yet the Vidame seemed to be put out by the interruption.
Muttering a string of oaths he strode from us to the window and
back again. The cool cynicism, with which he was wont to veil
his anger and impose on other men, while it heightened the effect
of his ruthless deeds, in part fell from him. He showed himself
as he was--masterful, and violent, hating, with all the strength
of a turbulent nature which had never known a check. I quailed
before him myself. I confess it.
"Listen!" he continued harshly, coming back and taking his place
in front of us at last, his manner more violent than before the
interruption. "I might have left you to die in that hell yonder!
And I did not leave you. I had but to hold my hand and you would
have been torn to pieces! The wolf, however, does not hunt with
the rats, and a Bezers wants no help in his vengeance from king
or CANAILLE! When I hunt my enemy down I will hunt him alone, do
you hear? And as there is a heaven above me"--he paused a
moment--"if I ever meet you face to face again, M. de Pavannes, I
will kill you where you stand!"
He paused, and the murmur of the crowd without came to my ears;
but mingled with and heightened by some confusion in my thoughts.
I struggled feebly with this, seeing a rush of colour to
Croisette's face, a lightening in his eyes as if a veil had been
raised from before them. Some confusion--for I thought I grasped
the Vidame's meaning; yet there he was still glowering on his
victim with the same grim visage, still speaking in the same
rough tone. "Listen, M. de Pavannes," he continued, rising to
his full height and waving his hand with a certain majesty
towards the window--no one had spoken. "The doors are open! Your
mistress is at Caylus. The road is clear, go to her; go to her,
and tell her that I have saved your life, and that I give it to
you not out of love, but out of hate! If you had flinched I
would have killed you, for so you would have suffered most, M. de
Pavannes. As it is, take your life--a gift! and suffer as I
should if I were saved and spared by my enemy!"
Slowly the full sense of his words came home to me. Slowly; not
in its full completeness indeed until I heard Louis in broken
phrases, phrases half proud and half humble, thanking him for his
generosity. Even then I almost lost the true and wondrous
meaning of the thing when I heard his answer. For he cut
Pavannes short with bitter caustic gibes, spurned his proffered
gratitude with insults, and replied to his acknowledgments with
"Go! go!" he continued to cry violently. "Have I brought you
so far safely that you will cheat me of my vengeance at the last,
and provoke me to kill you? Away! and take these blind puppies
with you! Reckon me as much your enemy now as ever! And if I
meet you, be sure you will meet a foe! Begone, M. de Pavannes,
"But, M. de Bezers," Louis persisted, "hear me. It takes two
"Begone! begone! before we do one another a mischief!" cried
the Vidame furiously. "Every word you say in that strain is an
injury to me. It robs me of my vengeance. Go! in God's name!"
And we went; for there was no change, no promise of softening in
his malignant aspect as he spoke; nor any as he stood and watched
us draw off slowly from him. We went one by one, each lingering
after the other, striving, out of a natural desire to thank him,
to break through that stern reserve. But grim and unrelenting, a
picture of scorn to the last, he saw us go.
My latest memory of that strange man--still fresh after a lapse
of two and fifty years--is of a huge form towering in the gloom
below the state canopy, the sunlight which poured in through the
windows and flooded us, falling short of him; of a pair of fierce
cross eyes, that seemed to glow as they covered us; of a lip that
curled as in the enjoyment of some cruel jest. And so I--and I
think each of us four saw the last of Raoul de Mar, Vidame de
Bezers, in this life.
He was a man whom we cannot judge by to-day's standard; for he
was such an one in his vices and his virtues as the present day
does not know; one who in his time did immense evil--and if his
friends be believed, little good. But the evil is forgotten; the
good lives. And if all that good save one act were buried with
him, this one act alone, the act of a French gentleman, would be
told of him--ay! and will be told--as long as the kingdom of
France, and the gracious memory of the late king, shall endure.
* * * * * *
I see again by the simple process of shutting my eyes, the little
party of five--for Jean, our servant, had rejoined us--who on
that summer day rode over the hills to Caylus, threading the
mazes of the holm-oaks, and galloping down the rides, and
hallooing the hare from her form, but never pursuing her;
arousing the nestling farmhouses from their sleepy stillness by
joyous shout and laugh, and sniffing, as we climbed the hill-side
again, the scent of the ferns that died crushed under our horses'
hoofs--died only that they might add one little pleasure more to
the happiness God had given us. Rare and sweet indeed are those
few days in life, when it seems that all creation lives only that
we may have pleasure in it, and thank God for it. It is well
that we should make the most of them, as we surely did of that
It was nightfall when we reached the edge of the uplands, and
looked down on Caylus. The last rays of the sun lingered with
us, but the valley below was dark; so dark that even the rock
about which our homes clustered would have been invisible save
for the half-dozen lights that were beginning to twinkle into
being on its summit. A silence fell upon us as we slowly wended
our way down the well-known path.
All day long we had ridden in great joy; if thoughtless, yet
innocent; if selfish, yet thankful; and always blithely, with a
great exultation and relief at heart, a great rejoicing for our
own sakes and for Kit's.
Now with the nightfall and the darkness, now when we were near
our home, and on the eve of giving joy to another, we grew
silent. There arose other thoughts--thoughts of all that had
happened since we had last ascended that track; and so our minds
turned naturally back to him to whom we owed our happiness--to
the giant left behind in his pride and power and his loneliness.
The others could think of him with full hearts, yet without
shame. But I reddened, reflecting how it would have been with us
if I had had my way; if I had resorted in my shortsightedness to
one last violent, cowardly deed, and killed him, as I had twice
wished to do.
Pavannes would then have been lost almost certainly. Only the
Vidame with his powerful troop--we never knew whether he had
gathered them for that purpose or merely with an eye to his
government--could have saved him. And few men however powerful--
perhaps Bezers only of all men in Paris would have dared to
snatch him from the mob when once it had sighted him. I dwell on
this now that my grandchildren may take warning by it, though
never will they see such days as I have seen.
And so we clattered up the steep street of Caylus with a pleasant
melancholy upon us, and passed, not without a more serious
thought, the gloomy, frowning portals, all barred and shuttered,
of the House of the Wolf, and under the very window, sombre and
vacant, from which Bezers had incited the rabble in their attack
on Pavannes' courier. We had gone by day, and we came back by
night. But we had gone trembling, and we came back in joy.
We did not need to ring the great bell. Jean's cry, "Ho! Gate
there! Open for my lords!" had scarcely passed his lips before
we were admitted. And ere we could mount the ramp, one person
outran those who came forth to see what the matter was; one
outran Madame Claude, outran old Gil, outran the hurrying
servants, and the welcome of the house. I saw a slender figure
all in white break away from the little crowd and dart towards
us, disclosing as it reached me a face that seemed still whiter
than its robes, and yet a face that seemed all eyes--eyes that
asked the question the lips could not frame.
I stood aside with a low bow, my hat in my hand; and said simply
--it was the great effect of my life--"VOILA Monsieur!"
And then I saw the sun rise in a woman's face.
* * * * * *
The Vidame de Bezers died as he had lived. He was still Governor
of Cahors when Henry the Great attacked it on the night of the
17th of June, 1580. Taken by surprise and wounded in the first
confusion of the assault, he still defended himself and his
charge with desperate courage, fighting from street to street,
and house to house for five nights and as many days. While he
lived Henry's destiny and the fate of France trembled in the
balance. But he fell at length, his brain pierced by the ball of
an arquebuse, and died an hour before sunset on the 22nd of June.
The garrison immediately surrendered.
Marie and I were present in this action on the side of the King
of Navarre, and at the request of that prince hastened to pay
such honours to the body of the Vidame as were due to his renown
and might serve to evince our gratitude. A year later his
remains were removed from Cahors, and laid where they now rest in
his own Abbey Church of Bezers, under a monument which very
briefly tells of his stormy life and his valour. No matter. He
has small need of a monument whose name lives in the history of
his country, and whose epitaph is written in the lives of men.
NOTE.--THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF VIDAME DE BEZERS, AS THEY
APPEAR IN THE ABOVE MEMOIR FIND A PARALLEL IN AN ACCOUNT GIVEN BY
DE THOU OF ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE INCIDENTS IN THE MASSACRE
OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW: "AMID SUCH EXAMPLES," HE WRITES, "OF THE
FEROCITY OF THE CITY, A THING HAPPENED WORTHY TO BE RELATED, AND
WHICH MAY PERHAPS IN SOME DEGREE WEIGH AGAINST THESE ATROCITIES.
THERE WAS A DEADLY HATRED, WHICH UP TO THIS TIME THE INTERVENTION
OF THEIR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS HAD FAILED TO APPEASE, BETWEEN
TWO MEN--VEZINS, THE LIEUTENANT OF HONORATUS OF SAVOY, MARSHAL
VILLARS, A MAN NOTABLE AMONG THE NOBILITY OF THE PROVINCE FOR HIS
VALOUR, BUT OBNOXIOUS TO MANY OWING TO HIS BRUTAL DISPOSITION
(ferina natura), AND REGNIER, A YOUNG MAN OF LIKE RANK AND
VIGOUR, BUT OF MILDER CHARACTER. WHEN REGNIER THEN, IN THE
MIDDLE OF THAT GREAT UPROAR, DEATH MEETING HIS EYE EVERYWHERE,
WAS MAKING UP HIS MIND TO THE WORST, HIS DOOR WAS SUDDENLY BURST
OPEN, AND VEZINS, WITH TWO OTHER MEN, STOOD BEFORE HIM SWORD IN
HAND. UPON THIS REGNIER, ASSURED OF DEATH, KNELT DOWN AND ASKED
MERCY OF HEAVEN: BUT VEZINS IN A HARSH VOICE BID HIM RISE FROM
HIS PRAYERS AND MOUNT A PALFREY ALREADY STANDING READY IN THE
STREET FOR HIM. SO HE LED REGNIER--UNCERTAIN FOR THE TIME
WHITHER HE WAS BEING TAKEN--OUT OF THE CITY, AND PUT HIM ON HIS
HONOUR TO GO WITH HIM WITHOUT TRYING TO ESCAPE. AND TOGETHER,
WITHOUT PAUSING IN THEIR JOURNEY, THE TWO TRAVELLED ALL THE WAY
TO GUIENNE. DURING THIS TIME VEZINS HONOURED REGNIER WITH VERY
LITTLE CONVERSATION; BUT SO FAR CARED FOR HIM THAT FOOD WAS
PREPARED FOR HIM AT THE INNS BY HIS SERVANTS: AND SO THEY CAME
TO QUERCY AND THE CASTLE OF REGNIER. THERE VEZINS TURNED TO HIM
AND SAID, "YOU KNOW HOW I HAVE FOR A LONG TIME BACK SOUGHT TO
AVENGE MYSELF ON YOU, AND HOW EASILY I MIGHT NOW HAVE DONE IT TO
THE FULL, HAD I BEEN WILLING TO USE THIS OPPORTUNITY. BUT SHAME
WOULD NOT SUFFER IT; AND BESIDES, YOUR COURAGE SEEMED WORTHY TO
BE SET AGAINST MINE ON EVEN TERMS. TAKE THEREFORE THE LIFE WHICH
YOU OWE TO MY KINDNESS." WITH MUCH MORE WHICH THE CURIOUS WILL
FIND IN THE 2ND (FOLIO) VOLUME OF DE THOU.